Shades of ’85? Right now, Bears’ ‘D’ is on par

This weekend’s Wisch List newspaper column from The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Are the Chicago Bears simply halfway through the season, or are they already halfway to the Super Bowl?

Well, time will tell. In fact, the next two weeks just might do it.

So far this year, the Bears have jumped out to an impressive 7-1 start, although critics might argue that it’s come against opponents with a less-than-impressive overall record of 27-39.

On Sunday night, however, the Bears will get a major test when they host the Houston Texans, considered the AFC’s best team with a 7-1 record. Then come next weekend, the Bears head west to tangle with the San Francisco 49ers, currently perched atop the NFC West at 6-2. Depending on how Chicago fares in those battles, we’ll know a lot more about the realities of its championship hopes.

But this we already do know: Much like the 1985 Bears of Super Bowl championship lore, these current Monsters of the Midway have been winning largely because of their stellar defense.

In fact, so good are the 2012 Bears that the team has already scored seven touchdowns on interception returns, just two short of the NFL record with half the season remaining.

Overall this year, the Bears have scored a total of eight non-offensive touchdowns while giving up only nine defensive TDs. That’s a pretty remarkable stat, especially when you consider that the 1985 Bears scored just five defensive touchdowns – four on interceptions, one on a fumble – throughout their entire season.

Digging deeper into the numbers, you’ll also find that through eight games in 2012, the Bears have given up 121 points, while scoring 236. By comparison, through eight games in ’85, the Bears yielded 114 points and tallied 239 – a difference of only seven and three between that season and this one.

Now, I think that there’s a bigger difference between the 1985 Bears – one of the best teams ever – and the 2012 Bears than a mere touchdown on defense and a field goal on offense.

But for those saying that this year’s team hasn’t played anyone, consider this: In 1985, the Bears’ first eight opponents (who all lost to Chicago) had a combined record of just 24-40.
That’s three fewer wins than this year’s first eight foes.

Pitching in on the North Side

Last weekend, the Chicago Cubs actually had me enthused.

For a few minutes, at least.

When word broke via Twitter that the team was reportedly trading frustrating closer Carlos Marmol to the Angels for starter Dan Haren, I was encouraged by what sounded like a great deal for the pitching-poor Cubs.

Then, in typical Cubs fashion, it of course fell through.

Now, I’m hardly confident that Haren (12-13 last season) would have been a true answer for the North Siders. But he could have helped them avoid another 100-loss season. And the Cubs can’t afford to do that again – not if they want to truly compete any time soon.

Right now, no top free agents – starting pitchers, in particular – are going to want to join an inexperienced, 101-loss team that also includes more than a century’s worth of championship pressure. Not when those guys can just as easily sign elsewhere for the same money and a much a better chance of winning now.

By my count, the Cubs’ starting staff currently includes only three pitchers (maybe 2½) in Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood. With no sure-fire answers in the minors, the Cubs’ best option for beefing up their staff to show crucial improvement in 2013 may be through trades.

So, anybody else want Marmol?