Patti Curl: Let’s start with a riddle. Two teams are on the ground floor of what will become the greatest sports league in America. Endless possibilities and a storied rivalry lie before them. One team takes as its team name and mascot the greatest animal to ever grace the earth with its presence.
What does the other team do?
Jeff Berckes: Oh, I love riddles! As every human learns at an early age, the greatest animal ever is the bear. It only makes sense that the first franchise would lay claim to such a majestic creature. In response, I see only two possible outcomes. The first is to pick an apex predator in a land that the bear has deemed uninterested in or unworthy of its presence, like a lion, and rule in another land. Or, take a creature with the one ability that bears chose not to have, flight, and take to the skies so that you could safely observe the most wondrous of creatures from afar, like an eagle. So which is it? What do I win?
PC: Those are terrific guesses, but you underestimate the depth of incompetence and profound shortsightedness that embodied the second team. They instead accepted a 500 dollar bribe to be named after the Indian Packing company, and have been forced to wear that foolish decision like a yellow and gold scarlet letter ever since.
You answered the riddle wrong, but you still win the satisfaction of knowing the Bears rivals are an organization birthed from foolishness that has continued to live up to its name ever since.
JB: Oh, wow - that was less of a riddle and more of an allegory. Short term gains may come with a lifetime of regret. Imagine having to wear green and yellow gear for the rest of your life... gross. Anyhow, that’s actually a perfect way to introduce Packers week - and what a week it is. Since the Bears last met these rivals to the north, the Bears have steadily improved under first year Head Coach Matt Nagy to a division leading 9-4 record on the cusp of the NFC North championship. The Packers, on the other hand, have fired longtime Head Coach Mike McCarthy and appear to be a franchise in tatters, but at least we know Aaron Rodgers is well insured by State Farm. Those commercials make me sad as I’m led to believe that Rodgers really only hangs out with guys that earn a commission off of him. As I was looking at the statistical year Rodgers is having, he’s leading the league in a very important category - throwaways. What can the Bears do to help Rodgers extend his lead in that category and clinch the division on Sunday?
PC: It’s hard to imagine that everything that goes into a team’s NFL season--all the off-season moves, the training, the game plans, the hopes and dreams, the front office machinations, the grit and glory, sweat and heart left on the turf--could be boiled down to a single statline. Rodgers leading the league in throwaways may be as close as we’ll ever get.
It should be straightforward to guarantee more throwaways. Basically, the Bears just need to make sure when Rodgers looks out over the field, all he sees is trash. Given the current state of the Packers offense, covering Davante Adams may be the only step needed to make that happen.
I’m starting to worry that I’m getting too confident about this game. Maybe it’s just because of how confident I was at halftime last time the Bears faced the Packers. Is there any legitimate reason to worry, or can I pre-order my celebration champagne to get a discount?
JB: I’ve already got mine on ice. I don’t see a plausible scenario where the Bears lay an egg here. I know the national media loves Rodgers and the “owners” that wear foam cheese hats but it’s time to end this ridiculousness. The Bears defense made a statement on Sunday against Goff & Gurley, they’ll be ready for Rodgers & Adams. There’s also that little nugget about the Packers being winless on the road and the Bears protecting Soldier Field to a 6-1 record. Did we mention this is a cap and t-shirt game too? There’s plenty of motivation here and I don’t see Matt Nagy letting his team lose focus.
Speaking of Nagy, I have to imagine you’ve watched the 10 linemen TD from Sunday 100+ times by now. Did you hear Nagy called it “Santa’s Sleigh”? The week before it was “Oompa Loompa”. What’s the gadget play you want to draw up for Sunday and what are you calling it?
PC: Let’s just say that I have watched the Freezer play a few more times than Santa’s Sleigh. This is entirely due to my relative love for Akiem Hicks and Bradley Sowell.
I appreciate the seasonal flavor behind Santa’s Sleigh, and I’m tempted to run with the theme with a name which points out that any play run against the Packers will look like someone crashing an ugly sweater party, but I think I’ll stick with a variation on my fan fiction trick play in Hungry Bear Picnic, Kodiak left.
In this play, 9 lineman join Biscuit and Jo Ho with Eddie Goldman and Bradly Sowell as eligible receivers on the same side. Fake handoff to Jo Ho, play action with Sowell running his Santa Sleigh route, then a quick forward shovel to Goldman, who falls backwards into the end zone, knocking over Clay Matthews and causing a domino collapse among Packer defenders.
Any way the Bears win this game will be beautiful, knowing the Bears clinched the division in the same moment they mathematically eliminated the Pack from the playoffs, but is there something in particular you want to see to be the icing on the cake?
JB: There’s a great Simpsons episode where Lisa shows Ralph a kindness on Valentine’s Day by making sure he’s included. Ralph mistakes that kindness for romantic interest and thinks they’re dating. Lisa bottles up her rage until it explodes in a live spot on the Krusty show where she absolutely eviscerates young Ralph in front of a live studio audience. Bart, replaying the scene frame by frame says “You can actually pinpoint the second when his heart rips in half.” I want that moment for Aaron Rodgers, I want to capture it in GIF form, and I want to play it on an endless loop.
To be clear, I’m not looking for angry Rodgers or frustrated Rodgers – we have those clips. I want the moment all hope is lost and the reality of his situation for this lost season becomes clear. Maybe it’s a Mack strip sack or maybe Kyle Fuller gets his revenge, but in my mind, it’s during a celebration after a defensive TD and Rodgers is looking on with despair at the new Monsters of the Midway.
PC: Hopefully someone tells Rodgers to call his State Farm friends and order up some heartbreak insurance. I’d almost feel sorry for him if he didn’t sacrifice his knee and season to hobble back on the field and torment the Bears week one. Sometimes karma is subtle. Sometimes it smacks you in the smug little face.
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