Home Cooking

After four straight years of opening the season away from Soldier Field, the Bears kick off the 2004 campaign at home against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, September 12. The Bears should also have a good idea of how they'll fare in the NFC North within the first month of the season.

"I like the way the schedule turned out for us and there is no better place to begin than at Soldier Field against a division rival," Lovie Smith said. "I'm excited to open our season at home in front of our fans."

The next two weeks the Bears are on the road at Green Bay followed by a trip to Minnesota. The Bears were 2-4 against divisional opponents last year and have been swept by Green Bay the past three seasons.

While the Bears only have one prime-time game on the 2004 slate, hosting San Francisco on Halloween night, the team has another featured game. The Bears return to play on Thanksgiving Day for the first time in five years when they travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys Nov. 25.

"Another aspect of our schedule that stands out is playing on Thanksgiving in Dallas," Smith said. "Everybody is watching football on Thanksgiving and we're one of the showcase games. Personally, it's a big deal because it will be the first time I have coached against my home-state team. I've never had a chance to coach in Texas, so that will be special."

Chicago's game at Dallas on Nov. 25 will mark the 32nd time the Bears have played on Thanksgiving Day, passing the 31 appearances by Green Bay on the fourth Thursday in November as the third-most in the NFL behind Detroit (63) and Dallas (36).

The Bears will be playing the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day for just the second time ever, losing 10-9 in Dallas on Nov. 26, 1981. The Thanksgiving Day match-up at Dallas marks the first time the Bears have played the Cowboys in any game since Oct. 18, 1998 and is Chicago's first trip back to the Lone Star state since Sept. 27, 1997.

After two consecutive years with games on Monday Night Football, the Bears will have no games on the League's center stage for the fifth time in the last seven years. Chicago's 48 all-time Monday night appearances still rank eighth in the NFL behind Miami (69), Dallas (62), San Francisco (59), Oakland (58), Denver (51), Pittsburgh (51) and Washington (51).

The Bears have their bye week after hosting the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 3. Chicago will conclude the regular season by hosting the Packers on January 2nd.

The Bears 2004 Preseason Schedule
7:00 p.m.-Thursday, August 12 at St. Louis
7:30 p.m.-Saturday, August 21 vs. San Francisco
7:30 p.m.-Friday, August 27 vs. New Orleans
7:00 p.m.-Friday, September 3 at Cleveland

Regular Season
WEEK 1: Noon-Sunday, September 12 vs. Detroit Lions on FOX
WEEK 2: Noon-Sunday, September 19 at Green Bay Packers on FOX
WEEK 3: Noon-Sunday, September 26 at Minnesota Vikings on FOX
WEEK 4: Noon-Sunday, October 3 vs. Philadelphia Eagles on FOX
WEEK 5: October 10 Bye
WEEK 6: Noon-Sunday, October 17 vs. Washington Redskins on FOX
WEEK 7: Noon-Sunday, October 24 at Tampa Buccaneers on FOX
WEEK 8: 7:30 p.m.-Sunday, October 31 vs. San Francisco 49ers ESPN
WEEK 9: 3:05 p.m.-Sunday, November 7 at New York Giants FOX
WEEK 10: Noon-Sunday, November 14 at Tennessee Titans FOX
WEEK 11: Noon-Sunday, November 21 vs. Indianapolis Colts CBS
WEEK 12: 3:15 p.m.-Sunday, November 25 at Dallas Cowboys FOX
WEEK 13: Noon-Sunday, December 5 vs. Minnesota Vikings FOX
WEEK 14: Noon-Sunday, December 12 at Jacksonville Jaguars FOX
WEEK 15: Noon-Sunday, December 19 vs. Houston Texans CBS
WEEK 16: Noon-Sunday, December 26 at Detroit Lions FOX
WEEK 17: Noon-Sunday, January 2 vs. Green Bay Packers

All game times are Central Standard Time.

The Bears will open their season at home for the 17th time since beating Tampa Bay 34-14 to kickoff the 1984 season (9/2). Of Chicago's last 16 season-opening home games; the Bears have won 14 times. This year's opener marks just the second time in the last five years that Chicago's first game will be played in its home stadium.

OPEN WITH A ROAR: The Bears kick off the season and Lovie Smith's head-coaching career against the Lions, the eighth time in franchise history that Chicago opened the season against Detroit. The home team has been victorious in each of the previous seven season-opening meetings between the two teams, with the Bears holding a 4-3 edge. Chicago won the last such game, 27-24, on Sept. 6, 1992 with Detroit winning the previous time, 17-10 on Sept. 12, 1982. The Bears won all three such meetings in the 1970s -- 17-9 on Sept. 15, 1974; 10-3 on Sept. 12, 1976; 30-20 on Sept. 18, 1977 -- with all three contests being played at Soldier Field. The Lions were victorious in the first two Chicago-Detroit opening-game meetings played at Detroit's Briggs (Tiger) Stadium: 14-3 on Sept. 11, 1966 and 48-23 on Sept. 26, 1954. Chicago traditionally has opened the season with division rival Green Bay, facing the Packers 29 times (16-11-2) with Detroit ranking second.

FEAST OR FAMINE: Chicago may face its toughest stretch of the schedule right out of the gates in 2004 as two of its first four opponents were division champions in 2003 while three of those teams posted winning records. For the second consecutive season the Bears will play half of their overall games against teams which posted a .500 or better record the previous year. Chicago faces Green Bay and Minnesota twice, Philadelphia, Tennessee, Indianapolis and Dallas in 2004 -- five of which were playoff teams in 2003. The Bears have six games against teams that won at least 10 games in 2003, but another six games against teams that won five or fewer. The combined 2003 records of the first four opponents on Chicago's 2004 schedule (36-28 by Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota and Philadelphia) is topped only by the combined 2003 records of their opponents in Games 9-12 (43-21 by Tennessee, Indianapolis, Dallas and Minnesota).

VIKINGS WAIT: The Bears will not play the Vikings until the third week of the season this year, traveling to Minneapolis for a game on Sept. 26. This will make 2004 the first season this decade that Chicago did not play Minnesota in one of the first two games of the season.

PUDDLE JUMPERS: A year after the Bears amassed nearly 17,000 air miles, more than any other season since the figure began being calculated in 1995, the team will barely top the 10,000-mile plateau in 2004. With their farthest trip this year being to Tampa, Chicago figures to rack up 10,226 miles in ten trips during the season. The total is the lowest for the team since 2001 (9,314) and the third-lowest overall since 1995 (8,682)

NOTES ON HOME: The 2004 season will mark the first time since 1999 the Bears will open and close the regular season at Soldier Field. Chicago defeated Kansas City, 20-17, on Sept. 12 and lost to Tampa Bay, 20-6, on Jan. 2. The Bears also opened and closed the season at home in 2002 while playing their games in Champaign. Chicago has not hosted Green Bay in the regular season finale since Dec. 27, 1998, a 16-13 loss.

SUPER TRIP: The Bears play at Jacksonville's ALLTEL Stadium this year, site of Super Bowl XXXIX. This marks the first time since the 2000 season when Chicago played at Tampa Bay that the Bears will play a regular season game at the site of that year's Super Bowl. The Bears are 4-4 overall at stadiums in the year that they host the Super Bowl, going back to a 31-17 loss to the L.A. Rams at The Coliseum on Sept 16, 1966 leading up to Super Bowl I. Chicago has lost two straight games at Super Bowl sites since winning four in a row from 1983 to 1994. Chicago will also play next year at the site of Super Bowl XL, Ford Field in Detroit.

HOUSTON, HELLO: On Dec. 19 at Soldier Field, Chicago will get their first look at the Houston Texans who joined the League in 2002. The Bears have had success against the other recent expansion teams, winning their first meetings against Carolina and Jacksonville in 1995. Chicago defeated the Panthers, 31-27, on Oct. 8 at Soldier Field and the Jaguars, 30-27, the next week at Jacksonville (10/15).

SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY: The Bears AFC opponents in 2004 will all come from the South Division, but Chicago won't catch a glimpse of any of them until the second half of the season. Chicago travels to Tennessee in Week 10 (11/14) before returning home the following week to play Indianapolis (11/21). The Bears will then face AFC South opponents in back-to-back weeks again in December, traveling to Jacksonville on Dec. 12 before hosting Houston on Dec. 19.

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