On the NFL
9:14 PM EDT, September 23, 2012
Sometimes the will is more important than the skill.
Sunday was one of those times for the Bears.
They didn't provide NBC's "Football Night in America" with many highlights. They failed to take advantage of what the Rams were giving their offense. They didn't impress on the stat sheet.
But the Bears did what they needed to do — dig deep and play physical, tough, determined football.
That Bears, who are supposed to be the new, high-flying Bears, could win this kind of scrum was an encouraging sign.
"You had to keep throwing punches and keep getting up," said defensive end Israel Idonije, who led an impressive defensive effort with 21/2 sacks. "It was a slugfest. It was one of those games you love to be a part of."
It also was a game the Bears had to have. They needed to win on the first full day of autumn more than they needed to beat the Packers 10 days earlier. That game, they were expected to lose. But losing to the Rams after losing to the Packers would have put the Bears in a confidence hole they still would be climbing out of when the seasons change again in about three months.
So the Bears put their big-boy pads on, cowboyed up and did it the old-fashioned way.
"It was kind of ugly," running back Michael Bush said, "but we got it done."
It was appropriate the powers that be remembered the tradition that the "C" on the helmets represents on a weekend in which Bears alumni were celebrated.
Many former Bears were at the game Sunday, including Ronnie Bull, Roland Harper and Calvin Thomas. The former fullbacks had to get a kick out of watching the Bears pound it up the gut over and over. That's Bears football, whether it's 1965 or 2012.
The Bears didn't have Matt Forte to dazzle the Rams, but they still had Bush to frazzle them. And frazzle them he did.
He finished with only 55 rushing yards and a 3.1-yard average, but Bush's performance gave the Bears an identity early in the game. He was the muscle in the Bears offense, and he helped keep the Rams offense on the sideline.
Bush converted a fourth-and-1, and a third-and-1. And he scored on a first-and-goal run from the 3.
Bush said establishing a physical presence was the idea.
"I think we did a good job of just running right at them," he said.
Later, he added, "Maybe we got away from it in Green Bay when we should have been running the ball."
Bush got a little help from newcomer Chilo Rachal. He was promoted to the starting lineup at left guard last week to give the Bears a little more nasty, and he did that Sunday.
"Chilo brings that edge to the offensive line and he doesn't take a lot of grief in there," quarterback Jay Cutler said of the former 49er. "He's a big guy. He's kind of a mauler and I feel comfortable with him in there."
This was Chilo's kind of party.
"A physical, nasty game," Rachal said. "The physicality of a game like this, I get a kick off that."
In case anyone was under the impression the Bears offense was going to be putting up 41 on a regular basis as it did in the opener, this game was a dose of reality.
"We're going to have games like that this year," Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "That's the type of team we are, I think. We're just going to have to grind them out."
On Urlacher's side of the ball, the Bears stuffed the run early and made the Rams one-dimensional. Steven Jackson is a big, tough, productive back. He was held to 29 yards and a 2.6-yard average.
"They tried to establish the run and we held our ground," Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton said. "Then we could get after the quarterback."
That made Idonije, Julius Peppers and company very happy. Sam Bradford, not so much so. The Rams quarterback was sacked six times. The pressure led to two interceptions.
An NFL season is a long, often grueling grind. Valleys are a part of every team's terrain.
So resiliency means everything. Without it, a team has no hope.
Remember, the Bears weren't just beaten in Green Bay. They were beaten physically. They were shoved all over the field. And on Sunday, they did the shoving.
This Bears team might not have consistent quarterbacking. It might not have ideal pass protection.
But I think it has resiliency, and that can carry them a long way.