The Chicago Bears have wrapped up the NFC North division. They did it in overwhelming fashion by blowing out the Minnesota Vikings at the ice-covered TCF Bank Stadium. Not only that, but the Chicago Bears may have ended Brett Favre's career on a sack by rookie Corey Wootton. All in a day's work for the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.
Here are some random observations from watching last night's game:
- The commercial manipulation was in full force. Every company that has a stake in retail revenue this holiday season invested in 30 second spots targeting "dudes who haven't done their Christmas shopping yet." What do you get the man who has everything? Apparently the Wall Street Blu Ray gift pack.
- I, for one, loved the field conditions and the look of the game last night. I put my sportswriter vote in for an outdoor stadium in Minnesota. It's cool football. If they fixed the turf (had it heated) and then played the game in the elements, it would be a nice addition to the football season.
- Corey Wootton will forever be a Trivial Pursuit answer. "On Brett Favre's last play of his career, which Chicago Bear knocked him out of the game?" Okay, maybe one of those localized Trivial Pursuits, but still...
- Devin Hester - MVP. Name any other player in the NFL that affects the game as much as Devin Hester. Do you realize that the Bears win games when Hester is active in the punt return phase? By my count, Hester was responsible for 17 points last night. And probably more if you count the field position the Bears received after the Vikings kicked several punts out of bounds to avoid Hester. The drama was so great. It really was - watching him take the kick-off down to the 6 yard line. Then having him return the next punt for a TD - and noticing there was a flag on the field. The whole stadium was devastated (both sides). And then to find out that the penalty was on the kicking team (when does that happen???). Amazing performance. Hester teared up on the podium after the game. He was emotional over the NFL record, but wished his special teams teammates could be interviewed too. It was a classy cry. Take notes, John Boehner.
- Stat of the year: It took Hester 286 returns to get 14 TDs. The last record holder, Brian Mitchell, returned 1,070 to get 13 TDs. Wow. And remember these stats don't include the 2006 returns (missed field goal return against NY Giants and Super Bowl return). Paging Joe Rizza Ford - if you are looking for a spokesperson, may I suggest Devin? It's time for him to take over this town.
- Julius Peppers is making a very strong case to be Defensive Player of the Year. It's not in his numbers (low sack total), but his athletic ability as a defensive lineman. It's not just the rush or the run-stopping, it's the containment. Vikings QB Joe Webb tried to scramble several times and just couldn't get by Peppers. He stops that play. He did that against Michael Vick too. So if the Bears defense can neutralize the speedy QB, we might have a chance. We have problems against the pocket passers, like Tom Brady or (eek) Matt Ryan.
- QB Jay Cutler rides a fine line. It's either a perfectly placed ball or the worst throw in the history of the NFL. It definitely is a game of inches.
- I told my wife Julie last night that Bears' Safety Major Wright was just a second or two late on every play, but if he gets that fixed he could be our Troy Polamalu. She looked at me and said, "Who is Troy Palumanannau?" Note to self: watch games with football fans, not wifey. It's cute, but cute is for a different time - not during football.
- Major Wright went to tackle Vikings QB Joe Webb at the goal line and missed by inches. He dove past the QB and slid on the icy turf out of bounds. He was hurt on the play. But what the announcers failed to notice was the reason he was hurt. Watch this (embedding is disabled, it's at 3:00 mark). At the end of his slide on the icy turf, Wright goes head first into a wheel. Yep, a camera crane was too close to the field. It was almost as close as the brick wall at Wrigley. Seriously, move the crane back. You work this hard to get the field ready and then you put a huge piece of stationary machinery three yards from the endzone?
- There was a pass interference call in the 3rd quarter against Major Wright. It was a bogus call and the ref threw a late flag. It led to the TD by Joe Webb and brought the Vikings to life. It was a terrible call in a game where the Bears were beating the 9 point spread. Coincidence? Everyone says refs are human, therefore they make mistakes. I say refs are human, therefore they are greedy.
- Question for the future: Who's responsibility is it to site-adjust on the offensive line? When the QB (Cutler) comes up to the line and does all that pointing, is he telling the offensive line where to block? Or is that the job of Center Olin Kreutz? Either way, get that fixed pronto. You aren't going far into the playoffs with missed block assignments.
- During the last seconds of the game, ABC showed Favre on the sidelines talking with teammates. He was holding a Styrofoam cup. Was he drinking coffee? Dr. Pepper? Or was that his spit cup for his Kodiak? Gross.
Finally, take a look at Mulligan's column in the Sun-Times today. He doesn't write headlines, but someone at the Sun-Times does. And something tells me the overnight editor on the desk doesn't know sports. Or maybe they did back in the 90s. What's wrong with this picture (in this case, picture of sub-headline):