Football

Welcome back to THE VAULT, fellow travelers on the cosmic highway that is Bears fandom. Today I’m gonna torture you by recapping a game that is in my opinion the “Worst Game of Football Ever Played.” Now, I’m not counting those 1930s slug-fests between teams named goofy things like the West Aurora Kings or the Providence Beavers; this title goes to a modern game. I’ve seen 2019 Bengals games that were inherently more watchable than this, shit I’ve seen Despicable Me 2 as a summer camp counselor and I’d rather watch it back to back with kids aged 5-11 in a rec room with mats that smell like pee than watch this again.

I’ve written about the 2011 Bears several times in this column, because I’m a hack and that team was a beautiful trainwreck that was 7-3 before the injury to Jay Cutler against San Diego, and went to 7-5 after this shitshow where they lost Matt Forte. The 7-3 Bears ended up 8-8, that’s the type of legendary implosion that accompanies the loss of the best Bears QB in franchise history to injury. Yes, I said Jay Cutler is the best Bears QB in the history of the franchise, please @ me because I love talking shit on Twitter.

The Bears came into this abomination at 7-4 with a real chance to right the ship against a Chiefs team led by Tyler fucking Palko, in for an injured Matt fucking Cassel. Kyle fucking Orton came in for Palko in this game because he was playing so bad, threw a flea flicker that was 10 yards underthrown, and got hurt on that play and was taken out for Palko again. That’s the most depressing carousel I’ve ever seen, and I’ve gone to Kiddyland with a drunk father who got into it with someone at concessions. Can you imagine that QB room? I’m fucking bored just thinking about it, like they’re all gonna sit there and talk about tax write-offs and complain about the mayo on the sandwiches in the practice facility being too spicy.

I had to drink an energy drink just to get through the highlights, and it’s gonna fuck up my sleep schedule. I can’t believe this shit-ass game from 2011 is going to fuck up my life for a day in 2019. Fels, you need to pay me more dude because this is an exercise in masochism. Forte got hurt in the first quarter and Marion Barber and Khalil Bell picked up the slack in the most boring, shitty way possible. They combined for 18 carries and 78 yards, 41 of those coming on two runs. Think about that, outside of two carries that were 41 yards, two NFL RBs rushed for 37 combined yards on 16 carries. Caleb Hanie went 11-24 for 133 and three interceptions, and was sacked seven times. Some of these numbers don’t even feel real, like there was talent on this team! Hester, Knox, Earl Bennett… those dudes are all at least replacement-level players at their position, but this was a Mike Martz offense so you know that the playbook looked like a Necronomicon with the spirit of Greg Olsen flying out every time you open it. Marion Barber caught a wide open pass on the goal line for the Bears but it was called back via penalty because he wasn’t set, and the Bears got their only three points of the day.

The Bears defense played good enough to win (sound familiar?), but the Chiefs pulled out a win despite Thomas Jones rushing for 36 yards on 16 carries, somehow even worse than Barber and Bell combined. Dexter McCluster had himself the only good game on the ledger: nine carries, 61 yards, four catches for 46 yards, and the game’s only touchdown, a hail mary he brought in off a Brian Urlacher tip right before the half. How many times have we seen something similar: a hail mary caught when a player does what they’re trained to do: knock it down? I say catch that shit or bat it as far away as you can, but I’m literally sitting here in sweatpants thinking about ordering takeout so take that with a grain of salt.

Dwayne Bowe had zero catches on nine targets, Steve Breaston had zero catches on seven targets. For the Bears, Knox went 0-for-8 and Hester went 0-for-4. Despite all of this absolute garbage, the Bears were in position to score with four minutes left when a Caleb Hanie pass hit Roy Williams in the chest on a slant route on about the twoyard line. The ball, as it tends to do around Roy Williams, bounced out and was batted around before an ugly interception ended this ugly ass game.

 

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.