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Friday, December 13

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Bears in Five

Packing It In
by the Bearscast.com Hosts

One: Sometimes a Win is a Win
Sometimes it's lost draft position. Watching the Bears in their most dominant performance of the season (granted it was in a blizzard sans the snow) was so bittersweet considering they were eliminated from the playoffs last Monday. The game could've been a huge momentum boost as the Bears steamrolled into the playoffs; instead they had dropped three consecutive winnable games prior to Sunday. So what does this win mean? Well we're 6-9, still not going to the playoffs, and are now guaranteed to not be picking in the top 10 in April. I hate to be angling for draft position, but what else do we have exactly?

Two: Damn It Feels Good to Beat the Packers
Still, as upset as I am about the win, it feels great to play spoiler and sweep the Packers for the second time in three years. As much as all Bears fans have been tortured by Brett Favre over the last 15 years, it was nice to see him struggle Sunday capped by Urlacher's interception return for a TD. There were no bone-rattling moments like Mike Brown's hit on Favre a couple years ago; Hunter Hillenmeyer drilled him a few times and for one whole game the Bears looked like the defense we expected. I guess we needed something to hang our hats on this year and this is as good as anything. At least Lovie has managed to keep one promise since coming to town; his 6-2 record against the Pack is a relief for all Bears' fans, especially those in Wisconsin or close to the boarder.

Three: Snuffed Motivation
Wow, Brian Urlacher has sure made a hell of a case for moving Pro Bowl voting back until the end of the regular season the last two weeks. However, if the sudden dominating performances are the result of feeling snubbed, then I wish the NFL would vote for the Pro Bowl sometime around mid-season. Over the last two weeks Ulracher has only 11 tackles, but he's added two sacks, two INTs, and two fumble recoveries. He has finally ascended to his role as the leader of a turnover-driven defense — it's just a shame it's too little too late. On the plus side, the past two weeks should prove to Bears fans that we still have a defense that can help us win. If the Bears' offense can pick up a good bit of slack come next season there is no reason this team can't get right back in the hunt. Led by 2008 Pro Bowler Brian Urlacher.

Four: The Unsung Heroes
Many weeks Patrick Mannelly and Brad Maynard play a crucial role in helping to give the Bears a chance to win. Unfortunately they play positions where you tend to only get attention when you make mistakes. However, after looking at the struggles of the Packer counterparts Sunday in the cold winds of Soldier Field, these two deserve some recognition. Maynard may not have the strongest leg in the NFL, but he doesn't outkick his coverage, helps our unit avoid giving up big returns, and managed to average 35 yards per kick and even put one out inside the 20 in the ridiculous condition he was faced with Sunday. And he was able to do all of that because of the outstanding and consistent long-snapping of Patrick Mannelly, who never struggled to get the ball back to Maynard — unlike the guy on the other sideline. In a game that was won on field position and some huge blocked punts, the quiet consistency of these two players deserves to be highlighted.

Five: Check In the Mirror
Kyle Orton — Your facial hair still looks awful, but Sunday you were better than Brett Favre... that's gotta feel pretty good.
Patrick Mannelly — Maybe a lot of people don't recognize what you do, but we do here at Bears in Five. One could argue you were the MVP of Sunday's game, and for that we thank you.
Garrett Wolfe — Local kid makes good. Damn you look good in open space; I suggest you drug Ron Turner and replace him with someone who knows how to get you out there more often.
Lovie Smith — Well, your 2007 team finally looked sort of like what it was supposed to on Sunday. Start figuring out how to make that a more common occurance in 2008.
Brian Urlacher — Thank you for remembering you are a Defensive Player of the Year quality player. It's been nice to see the last two weeks, and Bears fans needed that reminder.
Brett Favre — You are a Hall of Famer. You are arguably one of the top five QBs of all time. You hold ever major career passing record in the NFL. You are going to the playoffs. But Sunday you looked old, cold, and you got beat by Kyle Orton — HA! Merry Christmas!

Pucks in Five

by Jeremy Piniak

...is taking the holiday week off. See you in 2008!

Bulls in Five

Skiles Gone
by Dan & Patrick O'Neil

One: Scott Skiles is Relieved
John Paxson fired Scott Skiles on Christmas Eve. This is a tough business, this sports stuff. Pete Myers is the interim coach. Looks like Paxson is laying down the gauntlet all over. Good for him — he's taking this seriously as a complete challenge to his competence as a General Manager. To his credit, Skiles took the firing pretty well.

Two: Pete Myers, Official Step-in Guy
Pete Myers was also the interim coach in the November 2003 interregnum between Bill Cartwright and Scott Skiles. But he's stepped into bigger shoes than that — he started at Guard for the Bulls in the 1990s when Jordan retired for the first time.

Three: Harsh realization
So I had just turned on the radio in my car, third quarter of the Boston game, and the Boston Garden crowd was low and unsettled — mulling about and murmuring. I think the myself that it could be a good sign, maybe the Bulls are making a run and the crowd is disquieted. Then Neil Funk recites the score — we're 17 points down. It's clear that the crowd isn't scared — they're more interested in nachos and buying team jerseys than the visitors from Chicago. That's the moment I realized we sucked. Maybe Paxson was listening, too.

Four: Back to the Numbers
OK, let's review the week that was: a pretty embarrassing 1-3 performance was the prelude to Skile's firing. Fourth-quarter wimpiness in Los Angeles lead to a 103-91 loss to the Lakers, a decent outing against the Washington Wizards went in our favor 95-84, then they were shellacked by Boston and dismissed by Houston. That's enough to make anyone grouchy on Christmas Eve.

Five: Interim Week
We get to see how scared the Bulls are of losing their jobs starting on Wednesday, when they meet the far superior San Antonio Spurs down at the Alamo. Then back home Friday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, then another tussle with New York @ New York. I say 1-2.

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About the Author(s)

Sean Cassidy, Herman Coats and Gabe Dixon are the hosts of Bearscast.com, the best and brightest Bears podcast, part of the Chicago Sportscast Network. Now with perfect pronunciation of "Adewale Ogunleye"...by one of the hosts anyway. Go listen. Send comments to hosts@bearscast.com.

Patrick O'Neil is a Chicago designer and software developer. His second Bull's championship celebration was marred by a cordon of riot police at North, Milwaukee and Damen. Daniel X. O'Neil is Chicago writer and old skool Bulls fan. See more of him here. Send comments to bulls@gapersblock.com.

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