By Adam Conway
Chicago is a city steeped in sporting history. Whether it’s baseball, basketball, ice hockey or football, the fans are among the most passionate in the country. Come game day for the Chicago Bears, Soldier Field could be a sell out twice over. In the last twenty years, however, football fans in Chicago haven’t had a whole lot to shout about. The Bears have only made the playoffs five times in that period, and haven’t won a Super Bowl since their only title in 1985. This season, however, Chicago is beginning to believe.
The Bears started the campaign as 33/1 outsiders to win Super Bowl XLVII. They were written off before they had even begun. As it stands, the Bears have only lost one game, a feat they share with this season’s favourites to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the Houston Texans. An achievement that is only bettered by the Atlanta Falcons, who are unbeaten thus far.
The Bears currently boast the best defence in the league. They lead the NFL in points allowed per game, with an average of just 13. They also lead the way with 21 takeaways, the most by any team in their first six games since 1971, and have forced the most interceptions which currently stands at 14. Linebacker Brian Urlacher believes the key to these impressive figures is chasing down the football.
“The thing that we do, that I’m not sure most defenses do, we run to the football. If you watch our defense we have 11 guys running to the football every play. That’s the biggest thing our coaches emphasize.”
While the Bears have had to rely heavily on their defence, and running back Matt Forte, in recent years, they have given themselves a new outlet on offence this season with the arrival of wide receiver Brandon Marshall (pictured). The Bears traded two 3rd round draft picks to the Miami Dolphins for the acquisition of Marshall and it’s already looking like a wise piece of business. Marshall has tallied 577 yards receiving, the most yards through six games for a Bears wide receiver since 1960. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was a teammate of Marshall’s at the Denver Broncos from 2006-2008, and the pair look to have reignited their understanding, combining for 4 touchdowns so far this campaign.
The Bears host the struggling Carolina Panthers on Sunday and look set to extend their record to 6-1, and chalk up their 5th consecutive win. For the Bears to go all the way this season they would need to cause more than a few upsets, but a rare playoff appearance is becoming increasingly likely, and you never know what could happen from there.