On the last day of the NFL regular season, the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens lost for the fourth time in five games, and nothing about finishing 10-6 fueled their playoff drive with momentum.
On the same day, the Bears won their second straight game to end 2012 with the same record.
The Bears fired their coach. The Ravens will immortalize theirs after proving for the third straight season that it pays to have the hottest team in the NFL postseason instead of the deepest roster. The 2011 Giants went 9-7 before their triumphant playoff run. A year earlier, the Packers won it all despite going 10-6. All three teams illustrated what happens when head coaches maximize talent with intelligent game plans and players galvanize behind a common cause.
After the Ravens recovered to look so strong following a weak December, naturally it makes one ponder what the Bears might have done if the Packers hadn't lost to the Vikings in Week 17 to eliminate their NFC North rival. The divisional playoff weekend suggested a significant gap between the Bears offense and others in the NFC, but consider the Ravens only scored 11 more points than the Bears over the final seven games. Yet they regrouped.
Chicagoans reflexively scoff at such comparisons to the Ravens, but the teams bear similarities impossible to ignore as Baltimore prepares for its ticker-tape parade Tuesday. Both dominant defenses derive inspiration from thirtysomething middle linebackers at the end of their careers. Both inconsistent offenses feature Pro Bowl-caliber, big-play wide receivers, versatile running backs and quarterbacks of immense talent with something to prove. Both special teams units contain game-changing capability. Both offensive lines represent the weakest links and scrambled for consistency by moving players around until finding the right combination.
Though deeper and more skilled along the offensive line than the Bears, keep in mind the Ravens started the Super Bowl with only center Matt Birk and right guard Marshal Yanda in the same spots in which they began the season. Before the wild-card playoff opener, the Ravens moved rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele to left guard, switched left tackle Michael Oher to the right side and inserted veteran Bryant McKinnie to protect Joe Flacco's blind side. Anything about that say stability?
Bears can learn a lot from Ravens
Chicago Tribune | Feb 5