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Columnist
Improbable season just gets more so
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/23/2008 12:25 AM

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This is how it has been all season.

The Bears weren't good enough to dominate opponents or bad enough to be dominated.

As a result they weren't good enough to secure a playoff berth or bad enough to be eliminated.

At least not yet. Not after Monday night's 20-17 overtime victory over the Packers.

"It's been that kind of season," Bears quarterback Kyle Orton said.

And this was that kind of game. The Packers had a field goal blocked at the end of regulation. Then the Bears made one that won it 3:32 into the sudden-death period.

"Two overtime wins at home," Orton said of beating the Packers and the Saints in consecutive games. "It's not pretty, but a win is a win."

Now the Bears' are involved in a one-week season, needing a victory in the finale at Houston and a little help from their friends around the NFL.

So often Bears games have come down to a single play, and so might their season. Sometimes it works in their favor. Sometimes not so much.

Beyond that vagary, please don't expect me to explain how the Bears remain in contention for the playoffs.

They're never impressive. They win coyote ugly. Er, make that Bear ugly. But their record is 9-6.

Seriously, how can this be? How can these Bears be assured of a winning season? How can they still have something to play for this late?

Here's as good an explanation as any: The Bears are as resilient as any team could want to be.

"I don't know if I've been prouder of a team, the way we hung in there," said Bears head coach Lovie Smith.

On a night suited more for polar bears than Chicago Bears, the Chicago Bears thawed out long enough to survive global cooling.

This game was played in the coldest temperature of any Bears game since records like this started being kept in 1963.

How cold was it? I always refer to the great lyricist Tom Waits on these occasions: It was "colder than a gut shot bitch wolf dog with 9 sucking pups pullin' a 4 trap up a hill in the dead of winter in the middle of a snowstorm with a mouth full of porcupine quills."

If that isn't cold enough for you, try this one: "For most of the game the temperature was nearly as cold as the Bears were."

For three quarters, only special teams warmed the hearts of the 54,057 in attendance. The game remained competitive only because Danieal Manning's 70-yard kickoff return set up a field goal and Green Bay's muffed punt set up a touchdown.

Otherwise the Packers shivered the Bears' timbers. Yet the Bears kept their cool, won the game and stayed alive to contend another day.

"We need a little help," Smith said. "All we can do is get another win and see what happens."

What has to happen is the Bears beat the Texans and either Minnesota loses or Tampa Bay and Dallas lose.

The former would give the Bears the NFC North title and the latter would give them an NFC wild-card berth.

Either possibility remains improbable, but this has been an improbable season, so why not?

A play here and an inch there could get it done.

mimrem@dailyherald.com