Before the season started, you would have thought a Week 15 showdown between the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Monday Night Football would have been must-see TV. The Saints were coming off an 11-5 season – and actually challenged the Seahawks in the playoffs – and the Bears were coming off an 8-8 season in which they barely missed the playoffs but would have a healthy Jay Cutler at the helm from day one.
So yeah, this would be a great game, no question.
What we got Monday evening, however, was unmitigated disaster. The Bears’ season was already over – and they played like it – and the Saints were in playoff contention only because of how awful their division is.
“When you put the season schedule together, I think before the year you looked at it and said, ‘Hey this could be a good game,’” Talk of Fame Network analyst Clark Judge said on Ferrall on the Bench. “I thought New Orleans was actually Super Bowl-ready this year. I thought they were going to lap the field in that division and go to the Super Bowl – or have at least a chance to get there. And Chicago, I always felt as long as Aaron Rodgers is playing and upright in the NFC North, everyone else is playing for second – much like everyone else is playing for second in the AFC East with Tom Brady.”
Still, no one could have predicted the number of ugly, embarrassing losses the Bears have authored this season – a number that seemingly grows by the week.
Chicago (5-9), which has lost three straight and six of eight, never had a chance against New Orleans, falling behind 24-0 through three quarters. Jay Cutler threw three interceptions, was sacked seven times and the defense gave up 443 total yards. The Bears were also flagged for nine penalties – many of the pre-snap variety, including multiple false starts by wide receivers.
The Saints (6-8) won, 31-15, with the Bears getting two garbage-time scores.
“Chicago’s been a disaster,” Judge said. “You look at them (Monday), they have no pulse. There was no pulse to that team. It’s a dead team. That first half was horrendous. New Orleans isn’t any good either, but they’re playing a team that just mailed it in.”
It’ll be interesting to see if the San Francisco 49ers (7-7) mail it in this Saturday against San Diego (8-6) now that they’re officially out of playoff contention. The 49ers have lost three straight games, including a 17-7 loss to the Seahawks in Seattle this past Sunday.
“I think what you saw from them (Sunday) was a team that’s going to fight to the finish with Jim Harbaugh,” Judge said. “I really liked what I saw from them (Sunday). They were beaten by a better team, but they fought hard and they fought throughout. They’ve got all sorts of issues, beginning with the Harbaugh situation. They’ve got tons of injuries, Kaepernick’s not playing well – but they hung in there and they fought and I think they will fight this weekend.”
Whatever happens against San Diego – and in Week 17 against Arizona – Harbaugh is very likely gone after this season. The only question is, where does he go? Will he go to the Dolphins? The Jets? To Michigan?
“It’s a very complicated situation,” Judge said. “Is he going to quit? Will he be fired? Is he going to be traded? It’s a mess. It’s a mess.”