When Devin Hester ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown to put the Bears up only seconds into the game, I thought this was going to turn into one of the best nights in Chicago sports history. Instead, I should have remembered the fate of Ohio State only a few weeks ago when Ted Ginn Jr. did the same for the Buckeyes and his team subsequently got trounced by the Florida Gators. The fact that the Bears were only down by 5 points to Colts in the 4th quarter was a false hope – Chicago was soundly beaten after the 1st quarter on all fronts with the exception of special teams by Indianapolis. There’s also nothing quite like watching my Illini brother Kelvin Hayden run back an awful Rex Grossman interception to effectively put the game away.
To me, the story of this game was 3rd down. With the Bears so frightened of a big play from Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne, our defense failed to stop to torrent of Peyton Manning’s underneath passes to convert 3rd-and-long situations a ridiculous number of times. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, we couldn’t convert a 3rd down into a 1st down against the worst run defense in the NFL. I believed in my heart of hearts that the Bears were going to win the Super Bowl, not just because I’m a lifelong Bears nut, but that they were the better and more balanced team. However, the credit goes to the Indianapolis Colts since they overcame some lapses in the opening moments to completely dominate the game on both sides of the ball the rest of the way.
This is only the second time in my life where one of my teams made the championship game or series and failed to go all the way (the other time being the 2005 NCAA Basketball Championship with Illinois, which was even more of a personal buzzkill than last night if that could have been possible). I guess you can say that I’ve been relatively lucky during my just short of three decades on this Earth having been a witness to the ’85 Bears, Michael Jordan’s heroics during the Bulls dynasty, and the foul mouth of Ozzie Guillen with the ’05 White Sox. Still, it’s going to take quite awhile to get over the Bears not bringing home this year’s Lombardi Trophy that I truly believed was theirs for the taking.
(Image from Chicago Tribune)