2006 Chicago Bears: So Close Yet So Far
Ask anyone in Chicago who their favorite Bears team of all time is, every last one of them will say "1985 of course". This is not limited to the people that actually remember this season or experienced it. Everyone in Chicago will answered this way when asked. And I would be obliged to agree with anyone who says this, however I do believe that you can't call a team your favorite if you were not able to speak when the whistle sounded and the Bears were Super Bowl champions.
Being a Bears fan for my entire life it was hard to find just one team that was my favorite. This is due to the fact that in Chicago, the Bears are the most popular team in the city, therefore almost any Chicago Bear team can be your favorite no matter how terrible. At first I thought that maybe I would be different and not say that my favorite game was the 2006 Bears. I thought maybe that I would say that my favorite team was the 2001 team that won all those overtime games in the regular season. While that may have been one of the most exciting seasons that I have experienced, nothing matches up to an appearance in the Super Bowl.
As Bears fans,we love a great defense,in the 2006 Bears had the best defense since that 1985 team. That defense was in the top 10 in every defensive category except for two.The Bears ranked third in the NFL in points allowed and were first in the NFL in takeaways. the Bears defense finished the season having scored 18 touchdowns and having pulled down 27 interceptions which was good for second in the NFL.
What I remember most about the team is that they started off the season on an enormous winning streak. The streak began as the Bears defeated the Packers 26-0 on the road at Lambeau. The Bears then rattled off six consecutive wins of which only two of them were close games.During the streak the Bears outscored their opponents by a score of 221-69 while averaging 243 yards of total offense per game. The only game that the team was in danger of losing was against the Arizona Cardinals. The Bears trailed in the fourth quarter before Devin Hester returned a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown including a punt return touchdown late in the fourth quarter to give the Bears the lead.
This was just one game in the magical first season of Devin Hester. When the season ended Hester had had six touchdown returns, two on Punts, and three on kickoffs. No player in Bears history has ever made such a difference on the team in his first season as Devin Hester did. Never before had the Bears had a chance to score on pretty much any punt or kick off. the thing that sticks in my mind the most about them in Hester is his return of the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl. Everyone in Chicago believed after that play that the Bears had a real chance of actually winning their first Super Bowl since 1985. Of course it wasn't meant to be, but it was such a thrill to see the first kick of the game be returned in exciting fashion for the Bears opening touchdown of a Super Bowl.
Up to this point, I had become used to teams that were underperforming and far from the playoffs. The only teams that I can remember that made the playoffs either lost in the first or second round, and both times that I can remember this happening the games weren't even close. my last experience with the playoffs was in 2001 when the Bears lost at home to the Philadelphia Eagles by a score of 33-19. Before that,in 1994 the Bears won on wild-card weekend, beating the Vikings 34-18. They were knocked out of the playoffs the following week by the eventual Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers by a score of 44-15. So the playoffs in 2006 were not something that I could have ever imagined. I didn't think that the Bears were going to win the first game because of the way they played in the first half, but they were able to hold off the Seahawks and win the game 27-24. In the second game, the Bears were supposedly facing off against perhaps the best offense in the National Football League when they played the New Orleans Saints. This was not even a game as the Bears won 39-14. No doubt the cold and snowy weather took its toll on the visiting Saints as the Bears were moving on to their first Super Bowl since 1985.
As I mentioned before, the start of the Super Bowl had me thinking that the Bears were to win their second Super Bowl since I have been alive. As Peyton Manning's first interception of the game floated into the Bears hands, I was sure that they were going to win. But I guess when you're playing against the best quarterback in the game, it isn't meant to be. While I was very disappointed that the Bears didn't win, I was heartened by the fact that I had at least seen them in a place that I never thought they could ever get to again. While it would have been nice to see them win the Super Bowl, the experience I had watching this team the entire season is something that I will never forget.
I'm just hoping that this team will be replaced as my favorite by the 2009 Chicago Bears.
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