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Columnist
Turnabout is fair play in the NFL
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 11/24/2008 12:15 AM

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ST. LOUIS - Forget the rule that says NFL players get to celebrate a victory for 24 hours.

The Bears seemed to understand that Sunday's 27-3 romp over the pathetic Rams was more an obligation than a challenge.

Especially after last week's 37-3 loss at Green Bay, a 58-point turnaround enabled the Bears to do little more than sigh in relief.

"Obviously we were very disappointed last week," defensive coordinator Bob Babich said. "You have to roll up your sleeves and get back to work."

That's the NFL - one week a team is the worst that ever played and the next week it's the greatest show on earth.

Then comes next Sunday night at Minnesota.

Rarely will players look that far ahead that soon. Now has to be processed before next can be approached.

But the Vikings clearly were on the minds of Bears players and coaches before the towels were picked up from the Edward Jones Dome visiting locker room.

"The team we're going to play next week is a lot better," defensive end Alex Brown said without prompting.

Eleven men and women watching the game in a bar down the street would be better than St. Louis.

The Rams are a bad team made worse by injuries to its star running back and offensive left tackle, to say nothing of the starting quarterback being knocked out in the first quarter.

"There is not much to work with," Rams interim coach Jim Haslett said. "You have what you have."

So the Bears went through the motions of living up to their motto - "start fast and finish strong" - without much resistance.

You know, sort of like the Packers did against them a week ago.

But now the Bears travel to the Metrodome to play the Vikings, another 6-5 team with whom they'll collide at the top of the NFC North.

"(The Vikings) won today, I think," defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. "That sets up a big game next week."

There, you see. Next week was in focus already. Maybe that's why the Bears didn't beat the Rams 50-3 instead of a mere 27-3.

Bears head coach Lovie Smith has his team walking the line between playing games one at a time and playing a six-game season.

"The past is in the past," Smith said.

As opposed, I guess, to the past being in the present or the future or in some other dimension.

"This is a new season," Smith continued. "We'll define the season on how we do from here on out."

Opening Day was a treat, then. The Bears started fast, finished strong and threw the Rams around like rag dolls in between.

"It's a win just like last week was a loss" Brown said. "One win. That's what it is."

But it sounds like next week the stakes will be a couple victories or a couple defeats or maybe even a successful season or failed season.

If the Packers win at New Orleans tonight, the division will be jammed with a three-way tie for first place with five weeks remaining.

As Ogunleye said, "We've put ourselves in a situation where after every game we have to look ahead and see who we're playing and get prepared."

The past must be in the past before the artificial turf grows back beneath your feet.

mimrem@dailyherald.com