They are who we thought they were.
That all-time classic Cardinals' collapse is one of the most painful sports memories in my life to date. In case you have been living under a rock, let me reminisce a bit and break down the circumstances of that 2006 Cardinals-Bears game for you.
I followed the Dave McGinnis-coached Cardinals (2000-2003), who always seemed to be a couple of star players away from being able to turn the corner. Sound familiar?
Yes I know, that adequately describes just about every team the Cardinals had fielded in the history of the franchise.
Still, if you are a fan you are a fan, you are stuck with your team through thick and thin no matter what.
Anquan Boldin had his phenomenal rookie campaign in McGinnis' final season, the same season that undrafted fan favorite Marcel Shipp led the team in rushing. Shipp and Boldin were two of my favorites, and they helped carry the torch of hope into the Dennis Green era (2004-2006).
Green's Minnesota Vikings teams were routinely one of the teams to beat in the NFC. His hiring brought heaps of hope to a region starved for success. In his first draft he nabbed WR Larry Fitzgerald, LB Karlos Dansby, and DT Darnell Dockett in the first three rounds, players that are now cornerstones of the franchise five years later.
His first season he helped the team improve by two wins to reach 6-10, but in the second, despite continuing to bring in more pure talent than Arizona football was used to, they stalled at 5-11.
At the beginning of his third season in 2006, the Cardinals seemingly had everything in place to finally turn the corner. They had drafted QB Matt Leinart in the first round and acquired Pro Bowl RB Edgerrin James in free agency, they had a brand new state of the art stadium, and their "meaner cardinal" helmet logo and new uniforms only had one year of mileage on them.
Maybe, just maybe, this Cardinals' excruciatingly long history of futility could be reversed.
They started the season with a victory, but entered the Bears game on a four-game skid with a 1-4 record. The Bears meanwhile were the darlings of the NFL, the best team in the league with a 5-0 record. They weren't just unbeaten, they were annihilating opponents, winning an astonishing 26-0 on opening day in Lambeau Field no less!
There were other wide margins like 34-7, 37-6, and 40-7. Coming into the game, absolutely no one gave the poor Cardinals a chance. Only die hard Cardinals fans knew what vast potential lay just underneath the surface ready to be roused. To most of America, Arizona was a pathetic franchise with no hope.
That fateful night on Monday Night Football in front of all of America, the Cardinals got more than roused. They were amped, primed, and suddenly dangerous even.
Wow, I thought, I told you so! I knew this team had it in them! I knew that they could sooner or later put it all together and lay the smack down on some unsuspecting opponent, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
They were for once firing on all cylinders. Nothing could stop them. The Bears' intimidating defense was being shredded. Anquan Boldin looked like the best WR in the game and finished with 12 catches for 136 yards and a TD.
The Cardinals were completely dominating the best team in football and took a 20-0 lead into halftime.
Unfortunately the success must have been too much for Arizona to take. In the second half, the same old Cardinals reared their ugly heads, and literally fumbled the win away.
The Bears returned two stripped fumbles for TDs and then-rookie Devin Hester returned a punt for another TD to give the Bears a one-point lead with two minutes to go. Somehow Arizona was trailing in a game where they had limited the Bears to three offensive points and collected six turnovers.
Despite the colossal collapse, the game was still salvageable. Matt Leinart calmly drove the Cardinals down the field to set up Pro Bowl kicker Neil Rackers' 41-yard game winning attempt.
You know how this story ends. Yep, wide left.
Which leads us to the now famous Dennis Green post-game rant.
"The Bears are what we thought they were. They're what we thought they were. We played them in preseason—who the h^@# takes a third game of the preseason like it's bull%$*&? Bull%$*&! We played them in the third game—everybody played three quarters—the Bears are who we thought they were! That's why we took the damn field. Now if you want to crown them, then crown their a#@! But they are who we thought they were! And we let 'em off the hook!"
The Bears used the win to further propel themselves towards the Super Bowl. The Cardinals went on another underachieving season which led to Green's firing, and yet another regime change.
The Cardinals are currently searching for ways to cultivate and sustain intensity , and it is my hope that this memory will serve as the catalyst for a strong rebound game from the Cardinals this week.
This article also appears on NFLTouchdown.com