9:57 AM CDT, May 23, 2013
Full marks to the Arizona Cardinals.
You don’t hear that very often, do you?
But they deserve it for this tweet in the wake of Brian Urlacher’s announcing his retirement Wednesday:
“You were who we thought you were.’’
The line, of course, is a twist on then-Cardinals coach Dennis Green’s famous rant after the Bears’ stunning comeback on a Monday night in 2006.
There are certain games that earn a chapter in the city’s sports lore because of a notable moment or spectacular performance. Some of our sports chapters don’t have happy endings (cough, cough, Cubs-Marlins) because this is Chicago, after all.
But many of them play out like fairy tales. Most recently, Patrick Kane in overtime in Game 6. Five years before that, Paul Konerko’s first-pitch grand slam and Scott Podsednik’s shocking homer in 2005. A generation before, there was the Bobby Hansen game. Forever, there will be 46-10.
The Urlacher game in the desert on national TV deserves a chapter and warrants retelling, especially because I guarantee you’ve forgotten many of the details. Or maybe it’s that I’d forgotten many of the details because I’m an aging Baby Boomer. Something like that.
Anyway, while the game seems so recent, it actually was so long ago that Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser were the ESPN color commentators and Matt Leinart was threatening to have a career.
The Bears entered the game 5-0 and the refrain was -- come on, everybody, say it with me -- “Rex is our quarterback.’’ With Rex, our quarterback, the Bears had committed only five turnovers all season.
And then Rex, our quarterback, committed six himself in that game.
No lie. Four interceptions and two fumbles. Rex, our quarterback, committed four turnovers in the first two quarters alone and Arizona led 20-0 at halftime.
The Bears would cut it to 20-3, and then fall back to 23-3, and then it began. Then it became nuts. Then Urlacher happened. His defense, his team, his game, just watch.
Leinart was sacked by Mark Anderson (told you this is older than you thought) and fumbled. Mike Brown recovered (again, older than you thought) and ran it in from three yards out to make it 23-10.
If you were dreaming of some unbelievable comeback story, Rex, our quarterback, was trying to kill all hope by throwing interceptions on consecutive possessions, which was bad even for Rex, our quarterback.
Darnell Dockett picked off the first and appeared to return it for a score, but the Bears challenged and nullified the touchdown. Yes, this game was so old that Bears coach Lovie Smith was winning challenges.
After the Bears stopped the Cardinals and got the ball back, Rex, our quarterback, threw the second pick. Urlacher, who had led a hellacious second-half assault on Leinart, apparently had enough of relying on Rex, our quarterback.
So, after the Cardinals’ second takeaway, Urlacher stripped Edgerrin James. Charles Tillman recovered the fumble and returned it 40 yards for a score, which means not everything in this game is older than you thought.
The Bears trailed 23-17, but Urlacher was everywhere and the Cardinals offense was going nowhere. Arizona punted. A rookie named Devin Hester caught it. Eighty-three crazy yards later, the Bears had a 24-23 lead.
The outcome, however, remained in jeopardy until Neil Rackers missed a 40-yard field goal with seconds left.
Now the fairy-tale comeback was real. Now Urlacher had a game of legends: 25 tackles, two quarterback hurries, two passes defended, and a forced fumble.
And now Green ranted:
“The Bears are what we thought they were. They’re what we thought they were. We played them in the preseason -- who the hell takes a third game of the preseason like it’s (bull poo-poo)? (Bull poo-poo)! We played them in the third game -- everybody played three quarters -- the Bears are who we thought they were! That’s why we took the damn field. Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were! And we let 'em off the hook!’’
And then Green whacked the microphone and stormed off the podium into soundbite history.
That comeback underscored that something special was happening with the Bears, who would come within a Peyton Mannning Super Bowl MVP performance of having their rear ends crowned.
That comeback also stands as Urlacher’s single-greatest performance. For that game, if not also that position-changing career, Urlacher was who we never thought any linebacker could be.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC