Hard to say which was worse Sunday at Soldier Field, the weather or the Chicago Bears.





But it really doesn’t matter, because the New England Patriots were far superior to both.

Hard to say which was worse Sunday at Soldier Field, the weather or the Chicago Bears.

But it really doesn’t matter, because the New England Patriots were far superior to both.

It’s possible these two teams will meet again in eight weeks, at Super Bowl XLV. No matter how bad the Bears looked getting clobbered 36-7 by the Patriots, they remain one of the best teams in the NFC. Thanks to Green Bay stinking up Detroit earlier Sunday, the Bears still lead the NFC North by one game with three to play, still own the second-best record in the conference, and anything can happen once you make the playoffs.

Although ...

I wouldn’t bet on the Bears in a rematch with New England. Not here. Not there. Not in the tropics or in the Arctic. Not on sand, dirt, wood, water or while floating in space, either. And not in Dallas, where the Super Bowl will be played in climate-controlled sterility.

“We got beat by a very, very good team,” Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said.

And somehow, they got beat in very, very bad weather. There was snow. Ice. Wind gusts of 50 mph that rocked the goal posts and created snowy twisters on the field. Frigid temperatures gnawed at exposed flesh.

In Chicago, the citizens like to boast this is “Bears Weather.” And it is. Bears history is a graveyard of opponents who were reduced to shivering, teeth-chattering sissies by the wrath of December and January.

Contrary to local legend, though, Chicagoans don’t own this crap. I mean, really, you think New England — specifically, suburban Boston — is just another name for Hawaii?

“We’ve played in an environment in Foxborough for a long time that has pretty inclement weather conditions,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. “All of us have certainly played in snow, wind and bad weather. We don’t go in the bubble (indoor workout facility) very often. If it’s windy out there, we practice out there. If it’s snowy, we practice in snow. If it rains, it’s in the rain.”

Chicago’s average December high and low temperatures are 35 and 21 degrees, about five degrees colder than Boston’s. Chicago’s average December snowfall is 8.98 inches, Boston’s is 8.0. Threadbare differences, folks.

And there’s this: According to the website coldhardfootballfacts.com, Brady is 19-2 in games played in snow, ice and/or below-freezing temperatures.

So, not only is Brady arguably the best quarterback playing the game today, he’s also the best when the game is played in conditions that chased half the turnstile crowd of 56,161 home at halftime.

Brady came into this game having thrown 228 passes without an interception. He threw 40 more without getting picked off in Sunday’s junk. The last pick Brady threw was on Oct. 17. Since then, he has thrown 19 touchdown passes, including two against the Bears. One of those was the final dagger to the Bears’ collective heart.

It came on the final play of the first half, when at least one Patriots coach was yelling from the sideline for Brady to take a knee and run out the clock. But Brady looked at wide receiver Deion Branch in the huddle.

“I think Tom’s eyes got a little big,” Branch said, “and he said, ‘Take this shot if you can get it.’”

Branch blew past Bears cornerback Peanut Tillman on the left sideline, Brady’s pass hit Branch in stride, and Branch ran away from the Bears defense for a 59-yard touchdown and 33-0 lead as time ran out.

You want cold? That was sub-zero.

New England coach Bill Belichick practically scoffed when a reporter asked him about the weather.

“Chicago, New England ... this time of year, you’re gonna get that sooner or later,” Belichick said.

According to his players, though, the evil genius of the NFL spent considerable time this week making sure they were prepared — mentally, physically and with the game plan — for whatever elements they might face on game day.

But you knew that already about the best coach and the best quarterback, and once again perhaps the best team, in the NFL.

“I think,” Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris said, “there’s only one Belichick and one Brady in the NFL. The proof is in the pudding, man.”

And in the snow, the ice, the wind ...

KIRK WESSLER is Journal Star executive sports editor/columnist. He can be reached at kwessler@pjstar.com, or 686-3216. Read his Captain’s Blog at blogs.pjstar.com/wessler/