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Columnist
Thrilling doesn't begin to describe Bears win -- for the fans
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 12/6/2009 5:49 PM

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You can't say the Bears have quit on Lovie Smith.

That's because in order to quit, it takes at least an assumption that they should have been better than their record suggests.

Whether they ever played hard you may debate, but they were never good, so measuring their level of effort as they wind down the 2009 campaign is a bit tricky - and Smith's future depends on it.

Now you could look at Sunday's thrilling 17-9 victory over the Rams (1-11) as a positive sign that the Bears still are interested.

And if they are, they would be something their fans aren't.

See, when two really bad NFL teams get together, it's sometimes possible to get an extraordinarily entertaining game.

Except that wasn't the case at all Sunday at Soldier Field, where the happiest fans were the 7,346 no-shows who were more than willing to flush a ticket rather than have to witness more Bears football.

"It wasn't the prettiest game," said Bears QB Jay Cutler, with his most accurate dart of the season. "But it's nice to get a 'W.' It feels like it's been a long time."

It has been a long time, more than a month since the inspiring win over the Browns.

The Chicago entry has now collected 2 victories in its last eight games, falling to 5-7 after a 3-1 start, and the 2 wins in that stretch of misery are against two of the very worst teams you'll ever see on an NFL field.

Not surprisingly, those two games against Cleveland and St. Louis also are two of the worst contests you would ever hope not to see at Soldier Field.

That includes Sunday's exhibition, which you might suggest was like watching grass grow at Soldier Field, except there's no evidence that grass actually grows here.

And the phrase "tearing up the middle of the field" didn't so much apply to these two teams as it was invented by these two teams.

How bad was it? Even the officials wanted out.

With 14 minutes left, the referee looked up and noticed a mistake on the scoreboard, which still had the game in the third quarter. So he turned on his stadium microphone and begged, "Please change the game clock to the fourth quarter."

That brought the loudest cheer of the day, as no one wanted to stay an extra quarter unless forced to under threat of prosecution.

Even then it might have been worth a quick exit.

If only the referee could have flipped that switch and said, "Please change the calendar to Jan. 3," which would have meant there were only 14 minutes left in the season.

You'd have a hard time finding anyone on either one of these teams or in the stands Sunday who would have argued with that, especially if the fans didn't have to pay to see the Bears twice more this season.

The two powerhouse clubs combined for 32 punts, penalties and fumbles, easily trumping the number of combined first downs (28).

But Smith, as always, managed to find the better with the bitter, noting that the Bears couldn't win their sixth until they'd won their fifth.

"With five games left, we needed that one," Smith said, offering no explanation as to how the Bears needed it or what possible difference it could make now. "We're coming off a big win with an opportunity to play our rival (Green Bay).

"We feel good about where we are and now we go on to get the second one."

In all seriousness, what's Smith supposed to say?

The games are on the schedule, so they have to play them as fast they can and get on with their off-season.

Cutler seems primed.

He was showered and dressed 15 minutes after the game, even before his postgame session with reporters, ready to bolt the building.

Can't blame him.

Devin Hester left the game with a calf injury, but even before that his interest in getting a handoff or returning punts was met with all the enthusiasm of someone facing the endodontist without Novocain.

Still, most of those who participated at least feigned interest and in the process they took one week off the schedule and quieted calls for Smith's resignation.

So there was some apparent good news, that the Bears (5-7) won the game. The bad news is there's still four more of these matches, a full half of which are in Chicago.

"We got some things today," Smith said, "that we've been looking for."

A refund for season-ticket holders apparently was not on the list.