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Monster’s Mash: Brrrrrrrrr Down: The concept of ‘Bear Weather’

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LAKE FOREST  – The idea of “Bear Weather” is really a narrative for generations of the past.

For the die-hards, the concept of cold weather helping the Bears disappeared on January 8, 1989.

On a day where the air temperature was 17 degrees but a wind made it feel like -26, the Bears were heavy favorites to win the NFC Championship against a warm-weather 49ers team they’d already beaten in the regular season.

Head coach Mike Ditka even walked out to a chilly practice field in Lake Forest during the week and said to the cameras that he loved the “Bear Weather.” It figured to help the Bears reach their second Super Bowl in the 1980s against warm-weather San Francisco.

Not so much.

Unafraid of the conditions, the  49ers stuck to an aggressive passing game. The put a chill into the fans at Soldier Field in the first quarter when Joe Montana hit Jerry Rice with a pass to the outside, then  raced 61 yards for a score.

It set the tone for a weather-defying day for San Francisco, who passed for 268 yards in 29 mile-per-hour winds and didn’t commit a penalty in a 28-3 victory.

The cold weather, ironically, froze the team out of their best chance for a Super Bowl for the next 18 years.

So as a frigid Sunday approaches, just short of 28 years after the game that made the idea of “Bear Weather” a cute description rather than a hard advantage for the team, the team prepares for a day that threatens to be worse.

This time there is little talk of the weather being an advantage, especially against Packers. The talk is about doing what needs to be done to get through it while being effective.

While the team stepped outside for a frigid single-digit practice on the Thursday at Halas Hall, John Fox says a number of adjustments to the weather are actually made in pregame warm ups.

“It’s just adapting to it. Whether it was the snow a couple of weeks ago, San Fran,  when your standing there watching your quarterback warm up and the guys catching the ball can’t catch it, it makes you adjust,” said Fox. “If the wind is as flat as it was today (Thursday), I don’t see it really bothering either team very much.

“It’s just a race to the heaters when you come off the field.”

TO SLEEVE OR NOT TO SLEEVE

So when it gets cold there is a major question that comes up with players whether on the lines of the secondary.

To sleeve or not to sleeve?

Sometimes it is a question of flexibility and movement. Most of the time it’s simple a questions of toughness and masculinity.

When it comes to this hot button issues in the NFL (yes that’s a bit ironic), Pernell McPhee is squarely on one side of the issue.

“I ain’t wearing sleeves. As a defensive lineman, as a front-seven guy, as a guy who plays defense, I think it’s a sign of weakness,” said the defiant McPhee when it comes to extra protection for the cold.

Surely a few of the Bears will wear the sleeves on Sunday, but every player has their way of coping with the cold. For receiver Cameron Meredith, it’s not even a piece of clothing that is most important to him in sub-zero temperatures.

“It’s gonna be one of those games you’ve got to hydrate, because you don’t really hydrate in the cold,” said Meredith. “We know what we’ve got to do, it’s just a matter of going out and doing it.”

LIKE AARON OF OLD

After a bit of a hiccup midseason, Aaron Rodgers looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL again.

After uncharacteristically throwing seven interceptions in the first nine games of the season, the Packers’ signalcaller has regained his touch the last four weeks. He hasn’t thrown a pick in that time but has tossed ten touchdowns along with 1,119 yards in a 3-1 stretch that has put the Packers back in the playoff race.

Not that Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is surprised.

“They’ll either just keep sawing wood at what they’ve been trying to do a little better or go to another part of their playbook,” said Fangio of Rodgers.

Hence the defensive coordinator is weary of what the quarterback can do Sunday at frigid Soldier Field. Already 13-4 against the Bears in his career, Fangio is well aware of the many challenges the quarterback will present to his defense – especially a young secondary – this week.

“He’s a complete quarterback. He’s got a big arm, he’s very accurate, he anticipates things well, he’s got a quick release,” said Fangio of Rodgers. “Then on top of all that, the passing talent he has, the scrambling and the improvising and the quarterback running, just makes it really a complete package.”

STAT OF THE WEEK: 2-0

Bears record vs the Packers in home games where the temperature was three degrees or less.

Both games were played at Soldier Field with the Bears pulling out a 23-21 win in 1983 when the air temperature was three degrees. It was a record two degrees in 2008 when the Bears beat Green Bay 20-17 in overtime.