The entire city of Chicago could see it coming. We were being set up for one of the biggest collapses in the city’s sports history. The Bears’ once comfortable 16-0 first half lead had cut to just two as the New Orleans Saints’ rookie sensation Reggie Bush was back flipping into the end zone.
All seemed well early. The Bears recovered three Saints fumbles but failed to reach the end zone, settling for a trifecta of Robbie Gould field goals for a 9-0 lead.
“By the third attempt, I considered pulling up the hold and taking off toward the end zone with it,” said holder Brad Maynard. “The offense didn’t seem interested in scoring a TD so I was just going to do it myself, but it was too cold for any real effort.”
When the Bears finally reached the end zone late in the second quarter, it came in the fashion of a Thomas Jones TD run. Jones accounted for all 68 yards on the drive. The 16-0 lead seemed like a certain ticket to Super Bowl XLI.
But the Saints and QB Drew Brees weren’t going down without a fight. Using the hurry-up offense before the half, the Saints ripped through the Bears’ secondary. The drive was capped off when Brees found Marques Colston for a 13-yard TD connection to make it 16-7 at the half.
The lead was sliced to 16-14 in the third quarter, as Bush raced 88-yards toward the end zone, putting any thought of a Bears Super Bowl appearance on the shelf. Bush finished off the run taunting the pursuing Brian Urlacher and making unnecessary back flip, which Urlacher didn’t seem too happy about.
“It ticked us off,” Urlacher said with a growl. “They weren’t going to get anything after that.”
The only points the Saints offense put on the board for the remainder of the game was for the Bears when Brees was flagged for a intentional grounding penalty in his end zone, giving the Bears a 18-14 lead.
The safety swung momentum back towards the Bears and the offense showed their first signs of life finally early in the fourth quarter. Rex Grossman’s only TD pass came when Bernard Berrian made a circus-like TD catch for a 25-14 lead and the Bears were on their way to Miami.
The defense kept the lead safe, forcing another Saints turnover, which was parlayed into a Cedric Benson 12-yard TD run making it 32-14 Bears. The celebration began early and the Champagne corks were popped as Jones scored his second TD of the day for a 39-14 final.
Number of the Day: XLI
Shots pounded by Kyle Orton while watching the AFC Championship.