On the John
ONE YEAR LATER…a look back at Super Bowl XLI
Originally completed February 3, 2008
One year later, here’s what I remember.
…waking up and showering. Both were swift.
…putting on my Soldier Field game day best: Marcus Robinson jersey, blue warm up pants, blue Pumas with orange laces (bought specifically), and Bears hat, the baseball cap rather than the winter wool one. In addition to this dress, I remember being very excited as I put my homemade GROSSMAN handband on. I felt this was important for two reasons: support of our quarterback, a nationally-battered player, and as a rather fitting homage.
…going to the Wilmette Bike Shop on that very morning to pick up the t-shirt I’d ordered the day before, blue with bright orange text. On the front:
And on the back:
…taking that t-shirt home and placing it at the bottom of my t-shirt drawer, telling no one. And when the great Urlacher gave his postgame interview in his SUPER BOWL XLI CHAMPIONS t-shirt, I would join him in my own. Awesome.
…not being able to stop barking “SU-PER BOWL! SU-PER BOWL!” as I marched around my parents’s place, as well as not being able to stop actually barking, Otis Wilson-style.
…being certain that we would absolutely deconstruct the Colts. I saw it so plainly. Hester hasn’t hit in the playoffs yet, and you know he’s going to break one. And Thomas Jones? That first score he had against Seattle, when crossing the goal line literally transformed him from a tailback to a woofing, ball-shaking maniac—remember that? He’s going to be that times fifty. Rex’ll be steady, and the play-pass is gonna be outstanding with Jones and Benson, and defensively we’ll be able to get at Manning with enough pressure to keep him off. We have the secondary to hang with their receivers, and wait’ll you see Alex Brown. He’s going to be a madman. I’m picking him for three and a half sacks, two forced fumbles, two batted balls, and the MVP. You’ll see.
…talking to my friends in Miami, including my buddy Ric, who was wearing the shirt I’d made following the overtime win against Seattle: ROBBIE FREAKIN’ GOULD!!! Another friend of mine was wearing a shirt that read I CAME IN FROM AMSTERDAM TO GO TO THIS GAME, and without knowing of their mutual acquaintance, my two clever shirt-wearing friends greeted each other with an excited Bears-fan shake.
…feeling a thrill from the thought that, right now, at this very moment, 90 million people are thinking about MY football team, my Chicago Bears.
…being unshockingly calm during Hester’s touchdown runback. While the rest of the living room flock was on hopping foot, behaving wildly, cheering their lips off, I stayed seated, placing only my pumping fist in the air.
…shaking my head as Nate Vasher dropped a sure interception. “Peyton’s not gonna get many breaks like that.”
…being, again, unshockingly calm as Chris Harris picked off Manning, giving the Bears the ball, a 7-0 lead already in their hands.
…the first big “aww nuts!” of the night, when Manning, nearly sacked, slipped away from Tank Johnson and heaved a ball deep to Reggie Wayne, who entered our TV screen with no blue shirts to be found. The Bears’ young safeties had botched the coverage. Wayne strolled in untouched. A TD return, an interception, some near picks and near sacks…everything wiped out by one blown coverage. But then, a missed point after. Maybe? Maybe?
…the beginning of an ugly turnover night: the Bears fumbling the kickoff to the Colts, followed by Manning fumbling the ball right back.
…my first true “get up and holler” of the night, TJ heading over left tackle at our own 43, cutting back to the right, and breaking through for a 52-yard scamper setting up a first and goal. Brick on first down, brick on second, sweating on third as Rex dropped back to throw, sweating more as his pass zoomed behind Moose, but then: bam! Moose with the pluck! 14-6 Bears, as the rain began to fall.
…hoping for a field goal and a 17-6 lead, knowing that the biggest deficit a winning team had ever turned was ten points.
…Bob Sanders laying serious stick on Cedric Benson, the second year tailback coughing up the football like a kid with a cold coughing up phlegm. Benson limping away, a meager end to his second pro season.
…Indy’s ten straight points in the second quarter, a field goal from Vinatieri and a TD from Dom Rhodes. 16-14 Colts in the slushiest Super Bowl ever.
…Peanut Tillman playing like a man, pulling a triple play on the Colts’ Bryan Fletcher: holding him upright on the wrap-up, punching the ball free, recovering the fumble. Alright! Here we go! You wanna win a Super Bowl? You need statement plays from guys who are willing victory. Jones’ 52-yard run was one; Peanut’s strip and scoop was another. That is the way to do it.
…shaking my head as Rex gave the ball right back on the very next play. Aww nuts.
…watching Vinatieri miss a field goal at the end of the half, my team running to the locker room, their jerseys damp with rain, trailing by two. After a racing start, what?
…not eating during halftime, while the rest of our party stocked up on dinner.
…the Colts grinding us out in the third quarter, bagging another field goal. 19-14 Colts. No one is running away with this one, I thought, which meant that a loss would be due to a chip job, not a beat down.
…gripping my GROSSMAN headband at a Rex sack and another Rex fumble, the rain slamming down. Were we really going to lose the first Super Bowl played in Bears weather, and to a puff-ball indoor club like the Colts? Were those carpet-treading weenies really going to beat us by grinding out the clock and making big hit upon big hit? I want to vomit.
…watching another Colts field goal. 22-14 now, down by eight. Chip, chip, chip, closer and closer to that death-count of 10.
…watching the Bears begin their next drive inside Colts’ territory (courtesy of a roughness call on Indy), and mustering only a Robbie Gould field goal. Still in it at 22-17, but our points were all on three somewhat fluky plays: Hester’s TD return, Jones’ 52-yard run, and the roughing penalty. Into the fourth quarter, clutching tightly to life…
…the final choke-out from the Colts, or perhaps from Rex, or perhaps from that unholy bastard Ron Turner. Down five, a blanket of rain, no one able to handle the ball, a leader at tailback, and a first and 10 after a 22 yard pass. And what do we do? Go right back to the air, Rex to Moose, and an easy pick by Kelvin Hayden. And he’s running, and I’m watching, squatted down in front of the couch, and he’s still running, come on, someone get him, and down the sideline and into the endzone, and that is that. 29-17 Colts, up by 12, my head in my knees as I remain on the floor, and I hold ten fingers above my head as the booth announces to the viewing public that “no team has ever erased a deficit of more than ten points and won.” Over 11 minutes remaining, and my team seems cooked.
…keeping the faith. What else would I do? “Come on guys! Be the first! Make history!” And now I believe, and for a moment I think it will happen, and then Rex throws another pick. Back to the floor.
…trading possessions, watching the clock die. 29-17, 29-17. That’s how we’re going out.
…the clock running dead. The realization that our story was complete, and it was of a team that no one outside of Chicago much feared or respected. In the end, as far as they were concerned, they were proven right. The Bears, anyhow, had done nothing to disprove them.
…looking at the ill-fated t-shirt, deep in my drawer, never to be unveiled.
…the feeling of loss. True loss.
…dealing with the L by gathering my thoughts, composing myself, and writing a column. Feeling better about everything. Feeling at peace. And feeling stone-certain that the Bears would be back in a year. We would be champions; the shirt would one day be worn, even a year late…
And now, one year later, I’m watching pregame coverage for Super Bowl XLII, New England set to face the NFC champion Giants, while my team sits at home, a sad 7-9, with nearly as much to do with this game as me.
Copyright 2008, jm silverstein