Way back in August, we asked various writers to preview their favorite NFL teams as the season approached. (We think the most famous was James Frey's "preview" of the Cleveland Browns.)
Anyway, we went back to the writers of the two teams who ultimately reached the Super Bowl and asked them to do something else for us. Essentially, tell us their thoughts of how the season turned out, what they think about the big game and what it means, historically, to be here, now. And so they did, which we thought was nice, since we're not paying them.
The Bears are who I thought they were.
I can prove it, too. Just look back to what I wrote five months ago when Will graciously asked me to contribute a season preview: "So what am I, and the rest of this team's fans, supposed to make of the 2006 Chicago Bears? They are going to shuffle all the way to the Super Bowl. And win, of course."
See, that's prognosticating. Take that, Peter King.
Never mind that I spent the first 701 words decrying the city of Chicago, the fans, the media and failed former Bears QBs like friend-of-Will-Leitch Kordell Stewart. There was plenty to criticize - and there still is.
But somehow this team overcame the lynch mob seeking the head of Rex Grossman, the inconsistent defensive play, the injuries to key players, Tank Johnson's gun play, Lovie Smith's contract status, Muhsin Muhammad's alligator arms, Cedric Benson's big mouth and Kyle Orton's facial hair to make it thisclose to winning a world championship.
I was 10 when the Bears won Super Bowl XX. And maybe my memory is skewed, but I recall Chicago being up for grabs back then. Every kid on the block had a Walter Payton jersey and a Black and Blues Brothers poster courtesy of the local Chevy dealer hung above the bed. Some of us dressed up for Halloween as Jim McMahon, wearing a white head band with the word "Rozelle" scrawled across it in black magic marker. Some of us may even have gotten in trouble for mooning our friends like No. 9 famously did to a passing TV helicopter. We entered school talent shows and performed "The Super Bowl Shuffle," which cracked and skipped on the record player because it had been played so many times. We were cocky because the Bears were cocky. We knew they were going to win.
And what's happening now? Everyone seems to be going through the motions, using the 1985 playbook as reference. There are the inevitable recreations of the "Shuffle," the stories of die-hards pleading for tickets and the pointless comparisons to the last Super Bears. But the kids aren't going crazy this time around.
Maybe it's because Chicago isn't as much of a Bears town as it was back then. Maybe it's because we all know deep down this team doesn't deserve to be here. At the beginning of the season Rex couldn't go wrong, and the defense stubbornly refused to allow anyone to score. But something happened - and it happened beginning Week 6 against the Buzzsaw, despite the improbable win - that made these Bears look ordinary for much of the remainder of the season.
Even in what amounted to a blowout victory, the Bears managed to not look particularly good getting there. In the NFC Championship, Grossman passed for just 144 yards - including a 33-yard touchdown toss that had little to do with Grossman and lots to do with the acrobatics of Bernard Berrian — while the defense allowed Drew Brees to move up and down the field for 354 yards. The Bears beat the Saints by the deceptive score of 39-14.
Yet if the Bears catch the breaks they caught - and indeed created - during the Saints game, they can beat the Colts. While we should expect Peyton Manning's stats to mirror Brees', Manning isn't who the Bears have to worry about. If the Bears can hold Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes to something like the 37 yards rushing they held Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush to, and create turnovers like they did against the Saints (4) and their special teams wins the field position battle — punter Brad Maynard was just sick, dropping five kicks inside the 20, including a 51-yarder to the New Orleans 5 that led to the game-changing safety of Brees — and Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson combine for another 180-yard-plus game and return man Devin Hester takes advantage of the Colts' questionable special teams coverage ... they have a chance to make the game close.
I'm not terribly optimistic. The Colts are the better team. But what do you want me to do, crown their asses?
Bears 27, Colts 24.