BEARS EX­PECTED TO PACK A PUNCH

Pieces are in place against archri­val, but so is the pres­sure

Chicago Sun-Times - - LEADING OFF - RICK MOR­RIS­SEY Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ Mor­ris­seyCST. Email: rmor­ris­sey@sun­times.com

Well, this cer­tainly is new. The Bears and pres­sure, that is. They’re sup­posed to win Sun­day. It’s not just the book­mak­ers say­ing so. It’s Bears fans. It’s the lo­cal me­dia. I’m sure I could find some­one who thinks God is pre­dict­ing a vic­tory, too.

And it’s not just any team the Bears are sup­posed to beat. It’s the hated Pack­ers, who won’t be able to use in­jured Aaron Rodgers. They are us­ing a quar­ter­back named Brett, how­ever. Brett Hund­ley.

Not only that, some ob­servers have started stack­ing an­tic­i­pated vic­to­ries for the Bears in the sec­ond half of the sea­son, which we’re told is full of op­po­nents not quite up to the abil­i­ties of our lo­cal 3- 5 team.

Did I men­tion the Bears are com­ing off a bye week and the Pack­ers off a Mon­day night game?

The pres­sure is on. Oh, the Bears are say­ing that there’s al­ways pres­sure, that no­body puts more pres­sure on them than them­selves, blah, blah, blah. But the truth is that the out­side ex­pecta- tions for the past 2 ½ sea­sons have been about as high as a kicker’s tee. No­body ex­pected them to win, and they lived up to those ex­pec­ta­tions.

How high are ex­pec­ta­tions now? On Wed­nes­day, a re­porter asked coach John Fox if he had to guard against over­con­fi­dence head­ing into the Pack­ers game. The last time the Bears were over­con­fi­dent was head­ing into an in­trasquad game.

As a stu­dent of all things Bears, I’ve al­ways been in­trigued by the way their fans’ hopes sky­rocket at the mer­est sug­ges­tion of good news. It’s more an at­tribute of Bears fans than it is of other Chicago teams’ fans. The de­fense has been good, and rookie quar­ter­back

Mitch Tru­bisky will be good some­day. That’s the rea­son for the rag­ing op­ti­mism. And that’s the rea­son the Bears find them­selves in the un­usual po­si­tion of be­ing fa­vored, both in the bet­ting line and in the hearts of the faith­ful.

Sol­dier Field fig­ures to be a rau­cous place Sun­day, with fans see­ing green and gold, and smelling blood. They won’t care a bit that Rodgers is out with a bro­ken col­lar­bone. The pre­sump­tion in all the en­thu­si­asm is that Tru­bisky is bet­ter right now than Hund­ley is, be­cause who the hell is Hund­ley? He’s a 2015 fifth- round pick who has thrown one touch­down pass and four in­ter­cep­tions since tak­ing over for Rodgers. He did com­plete 26 of 38 passes for 245 yards in a loss to the Lions on Mon­day night.

Never mind that, so far, Tru­bisky’s stats are sim­i­larly un­re­mark­able.

Is this a turn­ing point for the Bears as an or­ga­ni­za­tion? Is this where, years later, we’ll point to Sun­day and say, “There, that’s where it hap­pened”? Or is this an­other head fake that we’re falling for?

The game is be­ing pre­sented as a given, not by the Bears, but by many out­side Halas Hall. If it doesn’t turn out the way it’s sup­posed to, if the Bears lose, will the con­verse be true — that it will be seen as a dev­as­tat­ing loss? Will we look back and say, “There, that’s where they re­verted back to what they al­ways are”?

I can’t say with any cer­tainty which di­rec­tion the Bears will go Sun­day. I just know that whichever way it is, it will be with the weight of large ex­pec­ta­tions on their backs. In case you haven’t heard, they’re fa­vored by 5 ½ points over the Pack­ers.

“None of these [ games] are easy,’’ Fox said. “We’ve won a few games where we weren’t the fa­vorites.’’

Let’s see how the Bears deal with the role of fa­vorite. Will they be com­fort­able with it or will it feel like a hair shirt?

“Be­fore you win, you’ve got to find ways not to lose,’’ of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dow­ell Log­gains said.

It’s a waste of time to tell peo­ple that the Bears are still re­build­ing and that the most im­por­tant thing this sea­son — maybe the only thing — is that Tru­bisky gains ex­pe­ri­ence, both good and bad. The Pack­ers are com­ing to town, and ap­par­ently the only thing rid­ing on it is ev­ery­thing. The ri­valry goes back to 1921, and some­where along the ( state) line, it be­came very per­sonal.

I can in­form you that this game is just an­other build­ing block to­ward mold­ing Tru­bisky into a star quar­ter­back, but you won’t lis­ten. You won’t lis­ten be­cause it’s the Pack­ers and be­cause this isn’t an­other game.

“I’m start­ing to fig­ure out it’s a big deal,’’ Tru­bisky said.

If the fa­vored Bears lose, he’ll find out ex­actly how big a deal.

Coach John Fox and the Bears will face a Pack­ers team that won’t have star quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers.

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