This probably makes me an idiot, but I am so incredibly proud of what the Chicago Bears managed to do this afternoon.
After the first half, with the Bears getting smoked, my daughter woke up from her nap and found us downcast. Once Todd Collins was introduced into the game, I had resigned myself to suffering, in the most muted way I could, a full scale embarrassment in Chicago.
But I should have more faith. Once quarterbacking duties were handed to Caleb Hanie and Caleb hit Johnny Knox on a beautiful throw, the mood in our house -- and throughout Bears nation -- improved substantially.
Yes, the Bears lost to a rival I absolutely detest. Yes, the Bears fell short. But the lasting images I will take from the game will be the reckless abandon with which the Bears played themselves back into the game and my daughter's reaction: bouncing around the house, eventually grabbing her favorite teddy bear (dubbed "Willie") and crowning him with a Phillip Daniels mini helmet.
Let's be clear about what happened today, because while an acerbic media will focus on questions of whether or not Cutler showed enough heart with a torn mcl (by writers who can't work if they've got a bad cold) or whether Lovie, Martz, and Marinelli got outcoached (and they probably did), the facts are that Caleb Hanie walked into a football game and did more in one quarter than he had in two previous years (2009-2010 stats: 8 for 14, 66 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT; NFC Championship game: 13-20, 153 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs). The facts are that Matt Forte's 160 yards from scrimmage (70 on the ground and 90 receiving) was the most productive of any Bears' running back in the postseason since George Gulyanics put up 161 yards (94 rushing, 67 receiving) in the 1950 championship loss to the Rams.
With a torn muscle in his hip and having barely practiced throughout the week, Chris Harris went out and played a tremendous game. With all the hype about Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, the best cornerback on the field was Peanut Tillman. And with every reason and excuse to lay down, the bad memories of watching the Eagles smoke a 13-3 Bears team once Jimmy Miller left injured and Shane Matthews got behind center have been erased.
Again, it sucks that they lost, but watching that defense fly around the field in the fourth quarter, watching that offense rally around Hanie, turning the game around so that Packers' fans had to hold their breath as the impossible seemed to be coming to fruition -- all of that means no regrets.
This is a team that fully deserves the city's admiration.
This is a team that deserves to be part of the franchise's storied history.
Congratulations to Jerry Angelo, Lovie Smith, and everyone involved in the organization for turning things around and making us all believers.