The Bears stepped up big time on Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings. The game was over early in the third quarter when Devin Hester returned a kick for a touchdown, permanently swinging the momentum in Chicago's favor.
The offense clicked. Cutler looked Montana-esque. The defense returned to its old form. And the special teams stepped up again in a solid blowout of a division rival.
The only question I kept asking my brother: "Are the Bears this good or are the Vikings this bad?"
Neither of us were sure, but the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
It is easier just for me to write the game off as a fun night to watch my Bears, and move on the next game, the most unique one on the schedule. The Bears play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London on Sunday, and the five things you need to remember for the game are listed below.
1. "Tell Martz I said...!"
The Bears offense looked like a well-oiled machine and it appears to be because Martz changed some things up. Yanking Frank "Human Turnstyle" Omiyale for the starting line-up paid dividends for Cutler's health and his performance. It was at about this time last year when the Bears started to move the ball with a little bit more consistency.
So why the wait? My understanding is that it is always much easier to start with the complex Martz blocking schemes pass routes, and if that doesn't work out, then go to the conservative route with max protect blocking. Look for the offense to continue to improve this week as long as Martz remembers that he needs to keep Cutler upright.
2. Jet lag
The Bears left on Thursday night in an effort to try and stick as closely to their normal practice schedule as possible. The Bucs left on Monday in an effort to normalize their sleep schedules before the game. Will it make a difference? It's hard to say. The Bears are leaving at the same exact time that New England did a couple seasons ago and they ended up winning by four touchdowns. However, it is New England.
3. The Bucs are actually pretty good
One thing that may be lost in this circus of a game is the fact that this will be a good game between two hungry teams that will be likely fighting for a playoff spot. Currently, the Bucs sit atop the NFC South division with a record of 4-2. Last week they beat a pretty good Saints team that rocked the Bears five weeks ago. Josh Freeman is an efficient and young QB, and the defense is young and well coached. The Bears will realize early on in this contest that these guys are better than Minnesota.
4. The NFL players hate this game
The worst kept secret among NFL players is how much they dislike the London game. It throws off their schedule, it's in a country that hasn't quite grasped the concept of American football, and it makes them start off their bye week readjusting to their time zone.
The game isn't much more popular among the English, and probably never will be. To have it once a year is like making it a traveling show. It will be successful once a year, but if there was ever a permanent team in London (fat chance of that), the attendance would be pretty low. To quote one English co-worker of mine "I just don't get all the stoppage in play".
5. Fish and Chips
It wouldn't be a London game without mentioning some fun British slang. Remember to use the bathroom you "pay a penny", if you get in trouble the police are "fuzz" or "rozzer", and if some local tells you to "bugger off" that means to go away.