Posted December 23, 2013

Bears cough away chance to clinch NFC North, adding more drama to Week 17

Chicago Bears, NFC North, Philadelphia Eagles
LeSean McCoy

LeSean McCoy shredded the Chicago defense for 133 yards and two touchdowns for the Eagles. (Matt Rourke/AP)

If this is how the Eagles play with almost nothing on the line, then the Dallas Cowboys might want to sound the warning sirens ahead of Week 17.

And if this is how the Bears play with their whole season there for the taking, well … the NFC North might want to consider deciding its champion with a coin flip.

Thanks to separate tank jobs of varying degrees by Detroit and Green Bay earlier Sunday, Chicago had a chance to clinch the division title with a win at Philadelphia. Instead, the Bears fell behind 21-0 in the blink of an eye, later took a safety just for emphasis and bombed their way to a humiliating 54-11 loss that ensured they’ll have to fight for their playoff lives next week, in a winner-take-all game with the Packers.

“We’ll throw this tape in the trash can,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said.

The Eagles’ win means that they will be the No. 3 seed in the playoffs if they wrap up the NFC East. They will have their fate decided on the season’s final weekend, too — a scenario they were well aware of before taking the field on Sunday night. Rather than rest his players in anticipation of a Week 17 showdown in Dallas, though, Eagles coach Chip Kelly turned his team loose in hopes of restoring some confidence after an 18-point loss at Minnesota.

He found it and then some, thanks to one of the season’s most dominating wire-to-wire displays.

“We knew the situation at hand, Dallas won, we really were playing just for a seed,” said Philadelphia linebacker Mychal Kendricks, who had two sacks and a forced fumble. “But we didn’t give up. We came out here, we played with our hearts.”

BANKS: Cowboys get a chance at redemption after consistent failures

Still, in spite of Philadelphia’s 43-point smackdown of Chicago, either team could win up in the playoffs. Or both. Or neither.

Such is life in what has been an utterly wild and unpredictable NFL season.

The Bears’ good fortune at this point is that someone, per the NFL’s rules, has to win the NFC North. Believe me, I double-checked as the clock ticked into hour three of Chicago’s Week 16 nap. Trestman’s team gaffed away opportunity No. 1 to cement a division title, but gets a redo at home against its arch-rival.

Whether or not Chicago deserves that shot is relative. In the grand scheme of the NFC playoff race, where an Arizona team would miss out at 10-6 and could miss out at 11-5. But within the confines of their division, even at a flawed 8-7, the Bears have done just enough to stay atop the leaderboard with one week left.

“We said in April that if we had an opportunity to go to the playoffs and do that by winning the last game, we’d be in,” Trestman said. “And that’s where we are.

Look, let’s call it like we see it: The NFC North is a total mess.

The Lions, actually 4-1 against their divisional foes, once had an apparent stranglehold on things. They imploded, as they are wont to do, capped off by back-to-back crushing home losses to Baltimore and the New York Giants.

The Packers have not been the same since Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone injury, a fact hammered home again Sunday as Matt Flynn committed two costly turnovers in a loss to Pittsburgh.

Chicago, almost by accident, rose to the top of the heap. The run defense has been in shambles all season and there’s still the ongoing Jay Cutler-vs.-Josh McCown debate, but a win at Philadelphia would have served an emphatic statement that this team deserved the division.

Cutler and co. served up strong evidence to the contrary.

What’s next? Who knows.

You don’t have to go too far back into the annals to find that 48-30 Philadelphia loss in Dallas. Nor do you have to search high and low to find back-to-back Chicago victories, including a convincing 45-28 triumph over Dallas.

The NFL has become more of a week-to-week proposition than ever. The Eagles may not be quite as sharp in Dallas next Sunday as they were in front of their ravenous home fans this week.

And the Bears have to hope that they cannot possibly be as bad. Even in the disappointing, underachieving NFC North, another half-hearted effort probably will not cut it.

“This season’s full of disappointments, that’s part of the adversity of the season,” Trestman said. “We’re not happy, we’re extremely disappointed.

“But that’s gotta go away. We’ve got to reenergize ourselves, we’ve got a very important game on Sunday.”

 

28 comments
William Griffiths
William Griffiths

Fire Tucker and bring in Rex Ryan after the season. He should be available

SuperSpank
SuperSpank

Bears have a good chance if they start McCown.  Otherwise, it is a toss-up.  Team looked totally out of sync last night on offense and the defense spent the whole game on the field - a formula for the imminent disaster.

emmabean2000
emmabean2000

Game on Sunday is for all the marbles.  Unfortunately, Green Bay has lost a few marbles over the past few months...


Richard--Ramirez
Richard--Ramirez

Most embarrassing performance in recent NFL memory, lose to GB and Trestman needs to be fired.

dan4nh3
dan4nh3

Philadelphia lets Minnesota scores 48 on them last week. Now all of a sudden their wold beaters. As if the NFC east is some kind of Juggernaut.

Zimbear
Zimbear

Living in Tampa Bay, I hardly ever get the chance to see the Iggles live, so last night was a treat.  Nick Foles showed a surprising amount of maturity running this ridiculously complex offense, taking his lumps when necessary and not making rookie mistakes.   Can't wait til next Sunday night.  Should be a great (and much closer) game against the Cowboys.  I hope Romo is healthy so they are playing against the "A" team.  No excuses for either team if they lose the division next week.

rskins09
rskins09

Cutler looked like he didn't want to be there ...

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

God Bless St. Nick, it is Christmastime after all :)

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

"Bears coughed up a chance to win the NFC North"???  How about this for a headline:  "Eagles pummel hapless Bears"?  

beast
beast

Of the 8 Wins this season only 1 Bears win was against a descent team. And that team had a backup QB. 


FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

Bears have as complete an offense as you can get but monsters of midway no more on D

Richard--Ramirez
Richard--Ramirez

@emmabean2000 Really neither team deserves a playoff spot. Just give that spot to AZ, a team that actually knows how to play football the right way.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@Richard--Ramirez As embarrassing as the Cowboys blowing a huge 2nd half lead to the Packers (and letting them score on every possession)?  Me thinkst not.

Thomas15
Thomas15

@dan4nh3 Eagles fan and yeah bears D stinks as does cowboys. But bears O is the real deal. Forte is one of League's best backs Top 3 and most under-rated. Eagles took bikes game off while they were on the field. When they show up to play though, it's a different story. 

Thomas15
Thomas15

@Zimbear It'll be a closer game. But it won't me "much" closer. 

BosephHeyden
BosephHeyden

@rskins09 Would you want to be there knowing that, even if you scored, you were going to be right back out there against a defense that was going to hit you pretty hard at least once a few seconds later?

themekons
themekons

@PhillyPenna better title would be nice, and I'd also suggest a better story - how about writing a little about the game?  this is such typical media nonsense...reporting about everything BUT the game.

wks9370
wks9370

@beast let's see, that means wins against Cincy, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, GB, and Dallas - all teams still in playoff hunt don't count? Moron...

Jules de la Zazette
Jules de la Zazette

@Richard--Ramirez @emmabean2000 GB knows how to play football the right way -- they've just been cursed by the injury gods and it sucks. The Bears, well, they just plained gagged last night, and the Packers got unlucky … again. Trust me, with Rodgers on the field, the Pack's record, even with Cobb and J-Mike out, would be entirely different. 


tlm773458
tlm773458

@themekons@PhillyPennWriting the complete truth about this game would be a bit wrong.  After all, children in Chicago may read these words, let's hope not, and some consider Bears' players to be heros

tlm773458
tlm773458

@wks9370@beastCincy already locked up the AFC North this season and could finish at 11-5, a full 2 games better than Chicago.  Baltimore and Pittsburgh have 3 SB titles and 4 appearances between them since Super Bowl XL (with the upcoming being XLVIII, that is 4 SB games of the past 7)..  And "Of the 8 Wins this season only 1 Bears win was against a decent team"... Moron is too nice a term