Chicago Bears: Though I Love '85, the '06 Season Is Special Too
The 1985 Chicago Bears come with a myth that is unimaginable. I often heard stories about how their blue helmets shined off the sun like no other season before.
Stories were told about how McMahon had the individuality to fight the system and how Walter Payton’s magnificent legs—that took him right, left, past, and around the defenders—were just second to his ridiculous upper body—with shoulders that took him through defenders.
It was on these same shoulders that the ’85 Bears rode on through the “Super Bowl Shuffle” (made in the middle of the season) and actually to the Super Bowl.
How arrogant was that? I actually don’t consider it arrogance, though. When your team is that dominant, I would consider it foresight. And the Bears were that dominant, even when Payton’s legs and shoulder’s were on the sidelines.
This 1985 Bears had arguably the best defense assembled.
Though many people remember it being a cold Fall, just to be near Soldier Field was like being around The Colosseum in its prime during the late-first century. The Bears were our Gladiators.
My problem is, however, that I was only a ripe one-year-old when this all was taking place. Have I watched Super Bowl XX? Of course.
Have I hounded the statistics to match that myth to paper (and in a way to believe the unbelievable)? Absolutely.
Have I watched a “fridge” fill in at fullback? For sure.
Have I YouTubed the Coke and WGN commercials? You know it.
Have I read the interviews about the defense’s bruising hits? You bet’cha.
My pops and uncles told me about the ’85 Bears. But if (heaven forbid) the Bears never make it to another Super Bowl in my lifetime, what will I tell my children?
With my own eyes, I have witnessed a team rally back from 20 points down without an offensive touchdown. These light brown eyes have seen the greatest kick/punt returner in history score touchdowns over and over and over.
The ’85 Bears will forever be mythical to me—a plateau in Bears history that places a ceiling above all other teams. However, the 2006 team holds sentimental value in my heart because I, myself, went through the highs and lows of that season.
They will forever hold a place in my mind simply because I remember it. Also, and unlike the ’85 Bears, they weren’t supposed to win.
As many of us know, the Bears handed Thomas Jones the nod at running back after Cedric Benson was injured in camp from a hit by Brian Urlacher and Mike Brown. Talk about serendipity...
Meanwhile the quarterback carousel was at full steam ahead as Rex’s preseason starts were poor. With the offseason signing of veteran Brian Griese, the quarterback position was still far from cemented. Still, the Bears rocketed off the gates, going into Week Nine undefeated—starting with a gratifying 26-0 shutout of the Packers at Lambeau.
But, without a doubt, the most memorable of those wins took place in Week Six at the Arizona Cardinals. With rookie Matt Leinart quarterbacking a predictably bad Arizona team, the Cardinals unpredictably took a 20-0 lead into halftime.
The magic started late in the third quarter when Mike Brown took a Matt Leinart fumble to the end zone, causing a prime time momentum shift unheard of in providing gasps, ohs, ahs, and lockjaw from all the open mouths and dropped jaws on millions of ESPN viewers.
Nothing is more gratifying than coming home after a long afternoon at work. As I recall, I was by myself at my girlfriend’s apartment watching Brian Urlacher come up behind a Bears stockpile with a red dot in the middle named Edgerrin James.
“Did I just see Urlacher strip the ball out? Did Charles Tillman score another defensive touchdown? Are we now only down by six?”
Little did all of us know that there was still room to have Devin Hester’s prime time breakout party. After yet another defensive stop, the Cardinals couldn’t have known yet what we all know now: You don’t kick to Devin Hester.
I distinctly remember Hester catching the punt, taking basically a straight shot down the middle of a beautifully perfected wedge (standing and cursing) all the way to the end zone. In utter amazement at what I have just witnessed, I continue to cuss as I hear the neighbors, while watching the same thing, laugh at my shenanigans.
In his first 13 games, Hester took back six touchdowns. Hester would also tie a then-record 108-yard return off a missed field goal. He would take two back against St. Louis. Without taking an offensive snap, Hester would go on to second in scoring on the team behind Robbie “As good as” Gould.
That year, Hester could take it back against the Army, Navy, Marines, Red Cross, Russia put together on kickoff.
Though afraid that the Bears would sit their starters for an essentially meaningless Week 16 game at Ford Field (the Bears had clinched home-field for the playoffs already), the stars did come out. Outside after the victory as we walked to our cars, some Lions fans were angry at our chant of “Miami!” the site of the then-upcoming Super Bowl XLI.
“That team?” he asked rudely. “That team in there? You guys are f*&%#!$ nuts if you think that team is going to the Super Bowl.” I guess we were, then.
Once in the playoffs, after a dominating 13-3 regular season, the Bears beat the prior year’s NFC champions, Seattle Seahawks in overtime. The Bears were not supposed to win this game.
Many “experts” predicted the Bears to fall next to the darling, New Orleans Saints. But even with Reggie Bush, a revitalized Drew Brees, and a nation empathizing with New Orleans, the cards showed only blue and orange. The Bears were not supposed to win this game!
Not only was this the first time the Bears were going to the Super Bowl since that mythical ’85 team, Lovie Smith proudly became the first African-American head coach to go to the Super Bowl. However, it was bittersweet for Lovie, as his mentor, Tony Dungy became the second African-American to go to the big game. What’s a season without drama?
Literally driving back home in a blizzard through Indiana and Michigan, I was listening to the radio as Devin Hester started off Super Bowl XLI with yet another kickoff return. It probably was unsafe to drive through a blizzard at that speed (let alone driving through a blizzard), but I wanted to remember as much as I could.
Though I didn’t begin watching until just before halftime, it is stories like this that draw me to this team.
For the first time since I was a gorgeous baby, names like Briggs, Urlacher, Hester, Harris, Jones, and even Grossman replaced those of Payton, McMahon, and Perry—if only for a night, if only for a season.
The fact that the Bears had so many dramatic problems (QB switches, Tank Johnson mess, Benson injury, Smith vs. Dungy) to overcome only magnifies the Bears’ success.
In reality, 2006 will never replace the ’85 Bears. But I look at them differently. The 1985 team are a comic book of heroes and football gods, hall-of-famers and, most importantly, Super Bowl champions.
But, one day, I will be able to bring up the 2006 Bears and tell my children about a skinny fellow from the University of Miami. I can say that this defense was one of the best ever, simply because the Bears got to Super Bowl Sunday without a quarterback worthy of being on the roster.
The 2006 Bears are, to me, worthy of this article. That is, unless the Bears win another Super Bowl with my eyes on the screen and, perhaps, a child on my lap.
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