THE MORNING AFTER: Other sideline envy at Soldier Field

WGN News Now

CHICAGO – There’s one thing that cuts through the wind, rain, and general nastiness of the weather that sat inside Soldier Field for another forgettable three hours of the 2021 season.

Bears’ fans sure with their team was more like the one on the opposite sidelines.

On Sunday, that was the NFC’s best team in the Arizona Cardinals, a team that has taken just two years to completely flip their fortunes as they now stare down a top seed for this winter’s playoff. Their young mobile quarterback has found success under a creative head coach who has translated his system to the NFL.

The Cardinals added intelligently in free agency while making some key trades that have constructed a roster ready to make a run towards a championship. On Sunday, the Bears weren’t able to get in their way too much in taking that next step.

As good teams do, they promptly took advantage of their opponent’s mistakes, capitalizing on two Andy Dalton interceptions with two of their won. Kyler Murray’s throw to DeAndre Hopkins for a fourth-down touchdown was textbook, then the quarterback showed off his athleticism with a run of his own.

After that, it seemed like the Bears were never terribly close to winning even if the score may have indicated something else. Indeed, for every good thing that happened to their hosts, they always seemed to have a counter-punch.

When Arizona committed a roughing the kicker to keep the Bears’ drive alive in the third, Dalton threw his third interception of the day that resulted in points. Another drive which the hosts had going was derailed by another interception which the Cardinals turned into six points.

They walked away with a 33-22 victory that improves them to 10-2 on the season as they continue to eye the playoffs and perhaps the franchise’s championship while calling Arizona home. Oddly enough, their last championship in the NFL came when they were still in Chicago in 1947.

Meanwhile, it’s another long December in Chicago.

For the third time in the last seven years, the Bears are approaching the final month of the season likely heading toward a coaching change. Twice before there was some hope for consistency, some hope to have with the Cardinals currently do, but each time it fell short.

Such hope was held for Matt Nagy after 2018, but that moment faded when the offense failed to blossom as so many might have hoped. Barring an unforeseen turnaround, his tenure ends in the second week of January as the Bears miss the playoffs for the ninth time in 11 seasons.

Yes, Arizona isn’t guaranteed results past 2021, but their future is looking good with a quarterback who has proven he can play at an elite level in the NFL. The Bears didn’t have that 2018 as Mitchell Trubisky was still developing and, at least a Bears’ uniform, couldn’t reach that level.

So once again this December, it’s Bears’ fans envying a team on the other sidelines that seems to have things figured out. The home team has pieces moving forward, sure, but when that comes and who might be leading it in 2022 is very much a mystery.

That envious feeling isn’t going away, either. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers await this week at Lambeau Field, well on their way to their 11th postseason appearance in the last 13 seasons.

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