Football

Today we’re going to look at another moment in timeless Bears lore, and since I’m a sadist AND a masochist, we’re going to flash back to one of the most depressing games I’ve ever seen: Bears-Broncos 2011. Week 14, each team coming in at 7-5 with playoff aspirations. Well, maybe that’s saying too much since the Bears were starting our recurring Vault QB Caleb Hanie. When I watched the NFL Throwback video of the game, a majority of the offensive starters were a who’s who of players I never want to think about again: Hanie, Roy Williams, Lance Louis, Kahlil Bell. It’s amazing that this lineup had any juice left at this point. I missed Jay Cutler a lot, don’t fucking @ me. He broke his thumb trying to tackle a DB on an interception return, and I blame all the meatball fans who called him soft from the NFC Championship the year prior (last week’s Vault). Jay had to MAN UP and tackle a streaking Antoine Cason even though the Bears had an 11-point lead in the 4th quarter and Matt Forte was also rushing back to knock him out of bounds, which he eventually ended up doing anyways.

Maaaaaan lemme tell you: 2011 was a heady time. I was seeing this really nice lady at the time, but she was not even trying to pretend to be interested in football so I went to watch the game with some friends at an apartment in downtown DeKalb, Illinois. I drank like three Thai iced teas and probably took too much adderall and talked through the entire game. I had finally found some friends in the local DIY scene who liked sports and weed just as much as I did, so while I’m not 100% sure of it I could reasonably assume we were all listening to Replacements records during commercial breaks and trying NOT to complain about our dads. Like I said, it was 2011. I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time.

Anyways, this game happened during Tebowmania, which is like Linsanity but mixed with Russell Wilson levels of Jesus-infused comeback wins in improbable fashions. Seriously though, he had five comeback wins in less than two months! The Chicago one would be his last in the regular season, and the last of his heroics until he would torch Pittsburgh with one decently thrown slant in the Wild Card round that season. Imagine being Eric Decker or Demaryius Thomas and having to catch passes from this goober, who scrambled around like he was being controlled by an 11-year-old playing Madden.

As a natural-born edgelord, I HATED Tebowmania. Why was it that he could beat a defense featuring all those 2000s Bears icons (Urlacher, Briggs, Tillman, Peppers), but would go 0-21 with eight picks if the other side just read Richard Dawkins books instead of hitting or covering? I was all about keeping religion out of football, because for some reason I cared what this dude believed in like it affected me in any way at all.

Naturally for me, I’ll always remember this as the Marion Meltdown. Marion Barber was thrust into the starting role when Matt Forte got injured the week before against Kansas City (which was the actual worst game of Bears football I’ve ever seen in my life), and Marion the Barbarian carried the ball TWENTY SEVEN times that day. He was a beast and I was so glad that the Bears had him as an insurance policy when Forte went down, until the Broncos game. The Bears were up 10-0 with 2:08 in the 4th and lost this game in overtime, no thanks to Marion Barber running out of bounds during the Bears last possession of regulation and as a result keeping precious seconds on the clock for Tebow’s miracle comeback.

Oh yeah, and the Bears get the ball to start overtime and actually drive down the field. On a 3rd and 7 on Denver’s 38 yard line, Marion gets a handoff and has a lane open up the size of a Texas megachurch. For one beautiful second, there was nothing stopping the Bears from winning this game and holding on hope that they could stay relevant until Jay returned. As he breaks through the line, green grass and a victory opening up before him, Wesley Woodyard’s right hand comes out and rips the ball out of Barber’s hands, and since the lord works in mysterious ways it lands right in front of Elvis Dumervil. Denver ball, Zack Bowman gets worked by Demaryius Thomas, Matt Prater is good from 51. The Broncos win, and Tebowmania hits its zenith. Seriously, watch any highlights from those weeks and Rich Eisen sounds like a preacher. It’s embarrassing.

2011 sucked. Fuck 2011.

 

Football

Welcome to a new FFUD staple: The Vault. Here in The Vault, we talk about a game from the past between the Bears and this week’s opponent. Also, technically this isn’t a staple of FFUD yet since it got a lukewarm reception when I pitched it to the brass, so I gotta work super hard to promote this new idea since the Chicago sports blogosphere is about RESULTS and I need at least 200 shares on Twitter if I’m ever gonna marry into the Arkush family.

Today’s vault: Bears vs Packers, NFC Championship 1/23/2011

Final Score: Packers 21, Bears 14
Fun Fact: January 23rd, 2011 was the 89th anniversary of the first time Insulin was used. Coincidence?

The Game: We all remember this one, right? The collective dagger in the hearts of fans who, like me, were too young to remember the ’85 team and lived our formative years watching the likes of Steve Stenstrom, Shane Matthews, and Cade McNown lead this legendary franchise. We thought this was it, that this time it was real. Mike Martz was (only) kind of an asshole at this point, but the offense looked okay sometimes and the defense was as good as it was in ’05 so there was a chance for sure. Johnny Knox was still playing! God, I miss Johnny Knox.

So after the Bears easily beat Seattle, they got the opportunity to get into the Super Bowl by serving it up to Green Bay. How sweet it was, baby! I ordered roughly $45 in Little Caesar’s and was fine with what that meant for my digestive system. Little did I know the Bears would do to my heart what that greasy pizza would do to my digestive system. These two events happened concurrently.

To put it poetically: shit hit the fan. Aside from Matt Forte putting up dominant numbers in that boring mid 90s/early 2000s way (17 rushes for 70 yards, 10 catches for 90 yards, no touchdowns), everyone else sucked. Rodgers faced no pressure all game, and the crucial mistake he did make didn’t end up costing him, as he managed to tackle Brian Urlacher on his interception return that would’ve been the equalizer, instead leading to another three-and-out. Aside from getting juked by Tom Brady, that is the one play I bet Brian still thinks about between Restore billboard photo shoots.

Olin Kreutz got hurt and played the whole game, but the narrative was all about Jay getting hurt and not returning to the field. Honestly, I know how shitty this sounds but I still take Jay’s side. You gotta believe if he could have played he would’ve been out there, and its not like dusty old bones Todd Collins and future Hall of Famer Caleb Hanie did much better. Plus, the field itself has always been so terrible that there’s always colossal potential for re-injury. However, it wasn’t limited to the QB; the offense was a dumpster fire that day, asking quarterbacks to consistently take 7-step drops and get pummeled. BJ Raji picked off Caleb Hanie and it sucked. Sam Shields picked off Caleb Hanie and it sucked even more, and the sun set on the season with the Packers heading to the Super Bowl. Oof.

Why pick this heartbreaker to kick off the Bears 100 campaign? Simple: hope. Just like 24-year-old me gorging on awful pizza and crazy bread, 33-year-old me is gorging on frozen pizza and drinking flavored water with a strong sense of hope in the Bears. I’ve been so conditioned to expect the Bears to suck at worst, or be a middling team at best that I actually thought they could be champions when they got the smallest taste of playoff success. We haven’t watched a meaningful snap yet, but this season is going to be the most exciting one I can remember as a Bears fan. I’m feeling that same hope about this team that I did back then. I can’t even find it in me to be jaded, fuck it. I’m ready for you to hurt me again, Bears. I’m finally all-in, not expecting it to all go wrong. I’m going full Randy Quaid from the last half hour of the first Major League film.

2019 is gonna rule for the Bears, y’all. Let’s have some fun. FTP.