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Tuesday, September 28

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Bears Thu Oct 23 2014

Bears Need to Win Before Returning to Soldier Field

Chicago BearsTom Brady in New England, bye week, and Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay -- that's what the Bears are staring at on the schedule over the next three weeks.

Losing both games would end any hope of a successful season. Though the Bears play five of their final seven games at Soldier Field, ripping off seven straight wins in the NFL is wildly improbable. It's especially difficult when considering the Bears don't have much of a home field advantage.

Grass gremlins and turf monsters keep popping up all over the place at Soldier Field, leaving piles of players lying on the field with massive globs of mud within arms reach. From the high cameras, the field looks to be in great shape, but it's nowhere close when NFL players plant and change direction at full speed.

It's pretty ridiculous that despite only playing three games on the field so far this season that the playing surface is as bad as it is. In the opener against Buffalo, when the field should be in optimal shape because it hasn't been used by professional football players yet, the same slipping and falling we saw in the Dolphins game on Sunday was rampant. Sure, it happens to both teams, but it's frustrating when you have to play on it every time you're supposed to have an advantage in front of your home fans. One slip could change the outcome of a game, regardless of how loud your supporters are.

The Chicago Park District runs Soldier Field, and collaborates with the Bears in regards to the field and playing conditions. The Bears upper-management has been staunch in opposing artificial surface, mainly due to their belief that it leads to a higher rate of injuries despite a lack of definitive evidence. Non-grass surfaces have evolved significantly over the years -- we're not talking about the concrete and carpet surfaces that covered Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, or the Astrodome in Houston that were pretty dangerous.

A synthetic surface would pay for itself many times over when you consider the drastically lower maintenance costs, combined with the fact that you never have to pay for a re-sodding. You would have few players in the locker room complain about a field they can rely on, as opposed to the mess they have to look forward to five times in six weeks in November and December.

Chicago is the farthest North location of an all grass field in the NFL, and the results show. Pittsburgh has similar issues with their field because of extreme winter weather as well. But what about Green Bay, don't they play on Kentucky Bluegrass?

The Packers spent a ton of money before the 2007 season to completely renovate their underground drainage and heating system, but the most significant change was with the field itself. They still have a field almost entirely made up of grass, but it's reinforced with synthetic fibers that make up roughly three percent of the playing surface. The fibers are injected about eight inches deep into the ground, and the roots of the natural grass around it intertwine with the fibers to stabilize everything. The result: almost no slipping and torn up turf.

Denver and Philadelphia use the same surface as Green Bay, and rarely run into problems of their own either. Maybe at some point in the next couple of years, both the Bears and the Park District will wise up and install a hybrid field that works incredibly well in the locations it's already been installed.

But in the meantime, the Bears don't have a home field that can truly be called an advantage. Both the Bears and their opponents have to play on the bad surface, but a lot of variance comes into play. Many times, it's better to be lucky then good. If that's the case, the Bears can't rely on winning all their remaining home games, and instead, need one or two road victories over the next two weeks to have a shot at making the playoffs. That sure is a lot of pressure when going up against two of the three best quarterbacks in the 21st century.

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