There is nothing more satisfying than proving the world was wrong about you. When you know in your heart of hearts that you are right and everyone else is full of it and then go out and show your detractors how ignorant they truly are, the satisfaction is total.
This is how my beloveds reacted following their stunning takedown of the New Orleans Saints in yesterday’s NFC Championship game. Winning 39-14 in the wind and snow of Soldiers Field, the Bears proved many national analysts wrong – analysts who thought that the mighty Saints offense would blow the Bears into Lake Michigan.
Instead, it was the much maligned Bears defense that rose to the occasion. Save for a stretch in the third quarter where New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees shredded the beloveds secondary, the Bears defenders made one big play after another, pressuring the Saints star into numerous incompletions and sacking him 3 times – one of which resulted in a fumble recovered by the Bears. They held the vaunted duo of Reggie Bush and Deuce McCallister to a measly 56 yards rushing. And while Bush burned them once on a spectacular 88 yard touchdown pass, in the end he was a non factor.
The Bears front four played an outstanding game. The pressure they were able to put on Brees meant that fewer blitzes needed to be called. And the Bears corner backs stuck to the Saints receivers like glue, with Peanut Tillman fully redeeming himself from his disastrous game last year against the Panthers.
On offense, Wonder Dog was 3-16 for 37 yards midway through the third quarter. But he had 3 of his passes dropped and simply threw away another 4. He avoided being sacked and made generally good decisions, although he missed several open receivers as the ball seemed to sail on him when he was playing with the wind.
But Grossman stepped it up a notch in the latter part of the third quarter and into the fourth by going 8 for 10 including the 33 yard miracle catch by Berrian for a touchdown. No interceptions, no turnovers and good decision making – about the best you could expect from Wonder Dog for the day.
Where the Bears won the game was on the ground. Nearly 200 yards rushing with Thomas Jones gaining 123 yards on 19 carries. And Cedric Benson pounded out 60 yards on 24 carries. Kudos to the offensive line who also had no holding penalties and no false starts.
Special teams recovered a fumble and covered kicks brilliantly. And Robbie Gould went 3 for 3 on field goals in the difficult conditions. Devin Hester didn’t break one but he did have a couple of significant punt returns. Plus, he held on to the ball.
A true team effort all the way down the line. It’s hard to imagine a better effort given the conditions and the opponent.
And as I mentioned last night, I thought the Saints simply didn’t play their game. Brees ended up 27-49 for 319 yards but he had an interception and a fumble. And 128 of those yards came on two plays; one on the very first series, a 40 yarder and then Bush’s eye popping 88 yard scamper.
And what happened to the running game? In that weather one would think that the best course of action would have been a more determined effort to establish the run. But Coach Payton seemed to lose patience for some reason so Brees continued to test the Bears downfield.
And so this Bears team becomes a part of Bears lore. And the game itself will also be elevated to legendary status, guaranteeing that years hence, people will recall the time when the wind and the snow combined in a spectacle of grit and determination that carried the team from the cold confines of Soldiers Field to the sun drenched pitch in Miami for The Big Game.
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