I've been searching my memory bank for the last few days in order to recollect my favorite Bear moments from the past decade.
Sadly, this search wasn't as difficult a task as I would have hoped. Though there have been undeniable high points, they haven't been spread out adequately, which is evident seeing as how three of the five moments occurred in the same season.
Nevertheless, there certainly have been several joyous occurrences over the last ten years, and I have compiled the best list I can think of to recount my most specific moments of joy. I hope my fellow fans will find it to be to your liking.
At conception, this was intended to be a Top 10 list, before I realized no one wants to read a slideshow that long. However, there were plenty of other wonderful moments I felt deserved acknowledgment. So here, in no particular order, are the plays/games that would have comprised slides 6-10.
* Robbie Gould's game winner in OT against Seattle in the 2006 Divisional Playoffs, which ended a 12 drought of playoff victories.
* Charles Tillman's overtime pick-six at Detroit in 2005 to secure a stranglehold on the NFC North.
* Brad Maynard's game winning touchdown pass to Brian Urlacher on a fake field goal at Washington in 2001.
* Paul Edinger kicking Detroit out of the playoffs with a 54-yard game winner on the final week of the 2000 season (finally some bad luck for the Lions!)
* Clinching the NFC North at Lambeau Field on Christmas Day in 2005.
The public will remember this game more for Dennis Green's "they are who we thought they were" postgame rant, but for Bears (and Cardinals) fans, the wonder was in this insane game itself.
The Bears came in at 5-0, appearing to be the most dominant team in the league, and not looking to face much competition from the puny 1-4 Cardinals. A game which began with a "there's no way we could possibly lose this game" swagger ended with Bear nation modestly shouting in unison, "how in the bloody hell did we pull that out?"
Despite six turnovers by Rex Grossman and facing two separate 20 point deficits, the Bears were able to snatch a 24-23 lead on the strength of two defensive touchdowns and a punt return touchdown in 12:51.
Even after putting us through all this emotional turmoil (not to mention almost getting me kicked out of my friends dorm for my squealing yelps) the Bears still let the Cardinals get in position for a 40 yard Neil Rackers field goal that would have ruined everything. Luckily, he pushed the kick left and the Bears exited Arizona with a win they had no business getting.
Coming in, the Bears were 4-1, with four wins against weak opponents, and a tough 49er team was supposed to expose them for the frauds they were.
Facing a 15-point deficit with just over seven minutes to play, the Bears weren't making any progress towards silencing the aforementioned taunts of fraudulence.
Two Shane Matthews to David Terrell TD's and a two-point conversion by Anthony Thomas later, an improbable overtime was forced.
From there, it took all of one play to cement this Bears squad as one of the most enjoyable teams we as a fanbase have ever had the honor to watch. This realization came to light as Mike Brown snagged a pass off Terrell Owens' hands and raced 33 yards for a game-winning TD.
Now I'm sure many of you will say Brown's OT return the following week against Cleveland deserves to be included.
While special, for sure, that play is missing for one reason: I didn't see it.
I learned that day that when Michael James invites you to watch a Bears game at his house, the "watching" includes one hour of watching football, and three hours of watching him play Grand Theft Freakin' Auto! Almost eight years later this still enrages me, but this is intended to be a happy list, so all further venting is hereby subsided.
Now to place a single play above the overall joy of a conference championship may not seem right, but I'm going to, and here's why.
As a brutal twist of fate, I was stuck working the day of this game, but through a fair amount of whining, I was allowed to watch it on a static-filled office TV as long as I kept my combustible emotions in check.
For three quarters I was able to do so, which was hard because the first three quarter were a topsy-turvey affair, with the Bears jumping out to a 16 point lead, only to see it decreased to four by the time the last period began. Though risking an ulcer, I kept calm.
But when Bernard Berrian, my favorite player at the time (pause to vomit) made one of the most bizarre and improbable touchdown catches I have ever seen, I didn't even try to continue fulfilling my promise of remaining subdued. With that catch, a wonderful dream I had been waiting 16 years of fandom for was about to be fulfilled—the Bears were going to the Super Bowl!
Sure, my employers were upset with me, but what did it matter? That moment was much bigger than they were.
Yes, the game as a whole is a wonderful memory, but when I think about it, the first image that pops into my brain was the play that broke the collective spines of all Saints nation. I'd go as far to call it "the catch" but I understand some people in San Francisco are, for whatever reason, pretty attached to that moniker, so I will refrain.
Now, if I were to compile a list of my least favorite Bear moments of the past decade, the 29-17 loss in Super Bowl XLI would no doubt find its way to the top of that list.
But not even a loss so heart breaking to a team I despise with burning vigor could eliminate the thrill of the game's first play.
Going in, no one had ever taken the Super Bowl's opening kickoff back for a touchdown. But with one 92-yard sprint, Devin Hester did just that, capping one of the most exciting rookie season's in NFL history with one of the most exciting plays in league history.
While I will never forget the numbness I felt by game's end, I will also never forget the elated scream that came out of me when Hester crossed the goal line.
Sure, I yell during games all the time, but this was something else. This was aided by 16 years of waiting (21 years for fans lucky enough to remember '85) to see the Bears in a Super Bowl, made worse by the torturous bye week that followed the Conference Championship Games.
Had it been heard by someone who didn't know of the elation behind it, it would have sounded like unholy terror, but for to me, that scream was a thing of beauty.
That's what I will choose to remember about Super Bowl XLI. Mainly because delving any further would result in me eating my weight in anti-depressants on a daily basis.
Seeing as how I was only three when he retired, I never saw Walter Payton play outside of highlight reels. That certainly doesn't mean I didn't grasp how important he was to this franchise. So, like everyone, I was saddened by his death on Nov. 1, 1999.
Even sadder was the inevitable ass-kicking the Bears were likely to endure at the hands of the Packers the following Sunday. Talk about salt in the wounds.
But somehow, it didn't happen.
Bobby Engram gave reason for hope, hauling in a six-yard TD pass from Jim Miller, giving the Bears a 14-10 lead with :30 left in the third quarter. However, 10 consecutive losses to Green Bay halted any premature celebration.
Pessimism crept closer, as a Ryan Longwell field goal made it 14-13. Following a 32-yard shank by kicker Chris Boniol, Brett Favre worked his usual magic, setting Longwell up for a chip shot 27-yard kick to ruin the already frail psyche of Bear fans everywhere.
But no! The Bears were in need of a savior, and got one in Bryan Robinson, who burst through and blocked Longwell's kick as time expired. Bear players collapsed in exhausted elation, grabbing a one-point upset of the hated Pack, and thus honoring the memory of arguably the greatest Bear there ever was.
Now, I am not someone who possesses what you would call "strong theological beliefs" but like anyone, I like to think there is some sort of force issuing out justice in the world. No one was in greater need of justice than the Bears on Nov. 7, 1999—my favorite day as a Bear fan.
Sure, Favre and co. had beaten us 10 straight times coming in (by a 309-164 count, no less), and would inevitably win eight of the following 10 contests between the bitter rivals. But here, on a day when a city, a fanbase, and a franchise needed it, we got the best of them.