It was in 1928 when Notre Dame head coach Knute Rockne, his team down to undefeated Army, delivered the death bed quotation of runningback George Gipp to his team in what eventually became a legendary half time speech:
“I’ve got to go, Rock. It’s all right. I’m not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, ask them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper. I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock. But I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy.”
Notre Dame rallied to win 12-6 with Jack Chevigny making the famous, “that’s one for the Gipper” tying touchdown.
Most football fans are very familiar with that story. It was made famous in a film starring Ronald Regan called Knute Rockne: All American. Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times relays what should be another familiar set of tales to Bears fans as he puts his finger on perhaps their biggest problem in this column from the Chicago Sun-Times:
“Coach Lovie Smith’s teams haven’t been up to [the] task when it ultimately has come down to it. That’s why the Bears have been a No. 1 seed (2006) or No. 2 seed (2005, 2010) or not made the playoffs at all in Smith’s first eight seasons.
“In 2008 — the last time the Bears were in a win-or-go-home situation in Week 17 — the 9-6 Bears needed to beat the 7-8 Texans in Houston to keep their hopes alive. They led 10-0 in the first quarter but lost 31-24 to miss out on a wild-card berth.”
“Later that night in San Diego, [current Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler and the Denver Broncos needed only a victory over the Chargers to win the AFC West. The Broncos lost 52-21, with Cutler lamenting his inability to keep up with Philip Rivers. ‘They punted once, I think,’ he said afterwards. ‘It puts a lot of pressure on us.'”
“Responding to real pressure has challenged Cutler and the Bears in recent years. When Cutler was a rookie in 2006, the 9-6 Broncos needed only to beat the 6-9 49ers at home in Week 17 to make the playoffs but lost 26-23 in overtime.
“The Bears’ most meaningful Week 17 game with Cutler was in 2010, when they had a chance to knock the Packers out of the playoffs but were overwhelmed offensively in a 10-3 loss that came back to haunt them.”
There isn’t a lot to add to this as the facts speak for themselves. In truth it was the 2008 loss to the Texans that told me all I needed to know about the Bears under head coach Lovie Smith. Cutler’s problems aren’t surprising given his performances in games against the better teams in the league just while a Bear.
I would love to be surprised by the Bears this week. I would love to see them go into that dome in Detroit with a bad offensive line, the injuries, the noise, the atmosphere and a team with nothing to lose all stacked against them and see them overcome adversity to pull out a meaningful victory. I’d be proud to see them pull a playoff berth out of the fire that was thier late season collapse. The problem is that their late season collapse is partly a result of the lack of resolve and mental toughness needed to win games exactly like this one.
The Bears don’t have what it takes. They’ve never had what it takes under Smith. Sure they can win against bad teams that will throw them the ball for interceptions and when the fumbles are bouncing up to them. When they’re rolling and things are falling their way, they’re the best there is at making the plays. But Rockne coached the Fighting Irish and not the Bears and “when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys”, I’m sorry to say that this isn’t the team you want on the field to win one for the Gipper.