Turn back the calendar to the last time Chicago and New Orleans met. It was Jan. 21, at Soldier Field, with something significant at stake – the NFC’s berth in the Super Bowl.
Turn back the calendar to the last time Chicago and New Orleans met.
It was Jan. 21, at Soldier Field, with something significant at stake – the NFC’s berth in the Super Bowl.
Chicago got that that day with a 39-14 victory. Today, with the two teams meeting at noon at Soldier Field, New Orleans has slim playoff hopes. Chicago has none.
Incentives still remain for each team, even if they’re different than the last meeting.
"Who knew we'd be here -- they're struggling to get in the playoffs; we're trying to keep them out," said Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs, possibly playing his last game in a Bear uniform.
"We’re trying to build on next season," Bears special teams Pro Bowler Brendon Ayanbadejo said. "The Packers ended on a four-game winning streak last year, and we’re trying to do similar things this year -- end this year with a two-game winning streak and then build on the momentum for next season."
For starters, it would be Chicago’s first winning streak of the season. Its 35-7 triumph over Green Bay last week was the type of performance it had been looking for all along.
What if Chicago had played like that earlier?
"It is what it is, and we are where we are," Ayanbadejo said. "Yeah, we finally showed up, the first time you've seen us all season. We have some wins, but that was first one we put together a full game.
"We only gave up one bad play (Ryan Grant’s 66-yard touchdown run). It's a little bit too late, but better late than never."
New Orleans (7-8) needs a victory over 6-9 Chicago, combined with losses by Minnesota and Washington, to reach postseason.
"I still feel like we have a lot to play for, even if we weren't in a position to make the playoffs," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "This is a game where there's a big difference between 8-8 and 7-9. I just think of pride, being able to end up on a high note if we don't make the playoffs.
"Obviously, I think we need to be at our best. It's unfortunate this season, I guess that we both have had, the expectations for us and the Bears were much higher."
The Bears now have assumed a role they’re not accustomed to lately.
"Sometimes playing the spoiler role is all right," Briggs said. "Especially when that’s all you can do and it's your motivation to be a spoiler -- so be a spoiler.
"We definitely have something to look forward to."
Defensive tackle Tommie Harris didn’t play in the last Saints game because of his hamstring injury.
"So I’m anxious about playing these guys," he said. "I’m anticipating this game so we can finish up well."
The Bears felt so good after pounding the Packers, they’d like to experience that emotion one more time.
"It was sad, to see it at the last minute like we could have done this the whole time," Harris said.
"It wasn’t really a big surprise. A lot of guys know we can play like this. We just haven’t been doing it every game."
Any sadness, with this being the last game?
"No. Sad is just an emotion. It's not a lifestyle," Harris said. "After this game, I start my lifestyle -- working out, learning, lifting weights, getting back to basics; that’s what I do. I train. I'll be able to do that and get ready for the upcoming season."
Bears quarterback Kyle Orton figures "we're going to see their best effort, and we need to match their intensity."
The biggest thing about today’s game, Orton said, is to get another win.
"We felt pretty good after the Green Bay win, even though the playoffs were out," he said. "You still feel good after a win, and it's a long off-season, so it'd be nice to go out with a win and feeling pretty good about yourself."
Reed Schreck is the NFL writer for the Rockford Register Star. Contact him at 815-987-1381 or email@example.com.
Rockford Register Star NFL writer Reed Schreck makes his weekly predictions (The first pick was made earlier in the week):
New England 27, NY Giants 17
Chicago 24, New Orleans 21
Philadelphia 20, Buffalo 13
Carolina 21, Tampa Bay 17
Cincinnati 28, Miami 20
Washington 27, Dallas 21
Detroit 31, Green Bay 24
Houston 22, Jacksonville 20
Pittsburgh 17, Baltimore 13
Atlanta 12, Seattle 10
Cleveland 24, San Francisco 18
Tennessee 26, Indianapolis 20
Denver 27, Minnesota 26
Oakland 20, San Diego 16
Arizona 35, St. Louis 34
NY Jets 16, Kansas City 13
Last week: 12-4, .750.
Season: 161-79, .671.
Keys to the game
- Use bluff package. Defensive coordinator Bob Babich mentioned its success against Brett Favre; employ it liberally against Drew Brees. Make Brees spend time wondering what's coming -- or not.
- Pass, pass, pass. Corner Mike McKenzie is out, so exploit a weakened secondary.
- Stay motivated. Going into the offseason on its first winning streak of the season would help morale.