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Usually, regular season wins are important due to playoff implications whether trying to win the division or positioning for post season seeding. You rarely find a game that is much bigger than making the playoffs but there was one on Thanksgiving day 2015.
The Chicago Bears in recent history hadn’t been able to figure out a formula that can beat the Green Bay Packers. During the Brett Farve era, the Bears were a mere 11-23. When Lovie Smith took over as the head coach in 2004 (after stating the first goal was to beat the Green Bay Packers), he lead the Bears to a 7-3 record against Farve and the Packers during that stint. It seemed as if the formula was great defense and mistake free football. So what changed…..well two factors played a big part in that.
After the 2007 season, Farve retired (first retirement) then entered Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was 1-1 in 2008 against Chicago but once Jay Cutler was traded to the Bears, that’s when the torture started for the Bears organization. Cutler’s record vs Rodgers is demoralizing. Including playoffs, Cutler’s is 1-12 against Rodgers and the Packers before entering Thursday’s night game but what’s interesting is seven of those losses are by eight points or less and then another two which the Bears lost by 10. So what does this mean? Since there has only been two blowouts, it’s more than just the Packers having a better team, it’s more of the little brother can’t beat the big brother mentality. It’s mental.
It seems like there has always been a big turnover by the offense or a blunder on defense that would cost the game. Going back to the first game of the 2009 season, the Bears blew a coverage and let Greg Jennings run deep for the game winning touchdown with 1:11 left. Or what about when Cutler threw an interception to Clay Matthews late in the first game of this season down by eight. No matter how close the Bears came whether in the lead near the end of the game or trying to make a comeback, it has always been a mental mistake or bonehead play. This is the reason the city of Chicago and fans all over called for Cutler’s head, his bad play against Green Bay and not being able to beat them..
Even when Cutler finally beat Rodgers for his lone win in 2010, third game of the season, the Bears stood in the Packers way to make the playoffs in the final game of the regular season. The Bears lost 10-3 allowing the confident Packers in only to meet up in the NFC Championship Game and lose while the Packers won the Super Bowl.
So why was the 2015 Thanksgiving game important? It had nothing to do with playoffs, this was a statement, over the hump, you will no longer own us game. Although the Bears were coming off another last minute loss, this game seemed to be more important than all of the rest. Just like when Smith led the unintimidated team to a victory in against their arch rivals in 2004, it led to some productive seasons including a Super Bowl appearance. This win seems to be reminiscent of that run. Cutler seemed relieved after the game and actually smiled instead of wearing that smirk on his face.
Can the Bears take over the division for years to come? Possibly. The Minnesota Vikings might have something to say about that but they no longer have doubt that it can be accomplished. John Fox seemed determine to change the culture around Halas Hall and indeed that has been done. During the Packers first drive of the game, they decided to go for a 4th and two around mid-field. This was done purposely to show “We still own you” but when the Bears didn’t back down and stopped them, it proved that they’re not scared of the bully anymore which might have been the play of the game.
This win should catapult this team in the right direction. They no longer have to wonder what is like to beat Rodgers and the Packers. There is already something different about this particular team than the teams in the recent past, fight. It’s evident that this won’t be the roster for next year’s season but the foundation has been set in place by Fox, “We are no longer scared of the Packers and anyone else.”
If you look back in the history of the NFL, The Oakland Raiders couldn’t beat the Pittsburgh Steelers at one time but once they finally beat them in the 1976 playoffs, they won that Super Bowl. Also, the same happened with the 1990’s San Francisco 49ers finally silencing their demons by beating the Cowboys in 1994 to win a SB. Now, it doesn’t look like the Bears will be making a SB run this year but the future seems very bright for Cutler and his troops after getting the monkey off their back.
Let’s not forget, Farve’s jersey was retired that night also.