Bears Must Make the Most of MNF

On October 7, 2002, the Chicago Bears will take part in their first Monday Night Football game since 1997. The Bears will take the field in Champaign, Illinois hosting the Green Bay Packers. This will be their first home Monday Night Football game since a 22-6 Bears victory over the Dallas Cowboys on September 2, 1996. The Bears, who had their best record since 1986 last year, have earned a position in the spotlight.

Chicago will play in three Monday Night Football games in the 2002 season. Only one current member of the team, James "Big Cat" Williams, has appeared on Monday Night Football in a Bears uniform. Few teams have earned national respect in the spotlight of Monday Night Football, only those who have taken advantage of their primetime appearances. The best example of recognition a team can earn from Monday Night Football is "the greatest show on turf" the St. Louis Rams. The Rams have appeared in more Monday Night Football games over the last two years than the any other team. For the Bears to earn the respect they deserve, they must produce on the national platform.

Unfortunately, if the Bears expect to produce victories in their Monday Night Football appearances, they will be fighting an uphill battle against history, hostile road crowds, and 2001 playoff teams. Chicago has the worst road winning percentage on Monday Night Football in its illustrious 33 years broadcasting games. The Bears have an all time road record of 6-19 on Monday nights. Two of their three Monday night games in the upcoming season will be on the road; Chicago will visit the NFC champion St. Louis Rams on November 18, and December 9 at Miami.

The Bears and Rams match-up comes towards the end of the season, which could be largely important for both teams. Conventional wisdom says that Chicago will be jockeying for first place position with the Green Bay, and the St. Louis will be doing the same with San Francisco. The Bears will play in front of a hostile crowd, and a team overloaded with talent. The last time the Bears took on the Rams, Chicago limped out of the "TWA Dome" 34-12 losers on a December 26th (1999) game in St. Louis. If the Bears could pull out a victory, it would do wonders for their confidence going into the playoffs while earning some recognition in the national spotlight.

On December 9, the Bears will take on the Miami Dolphins in Pro Player Stadium. The Dolphins will be a tough test for Chicago; the 2001 playoff squad will have a bolstered running attack with the off-season addition of former Saints running back Ricky Williams. Oddly enough, the Bears last Monday Night Football game was a 36-33 overtime win against the Dolphins in Miami. Then Bears head coach Dave Wannstedt, who is the front man for Miami, led Chicago to victory over the Dolphins. The Bears have played the Dolphins three times on MNF for a lifetime 1-2 record, but all of the contests have been in Miami.

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