2006 Bears-Cardinals history has both good, bad memories

2006 Bears-Cardinals history has both good, bad memories
November 26, 2013, 11:15 am
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CSN's first installation of "Bears Classics" will begin with "Night of Ridiculous' which debuts on Comcast SportsNet Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m.

The 2006 Bears win at Arizona was memorable for so many reasons, not all of them good. Sometimes the fun of history is looking at pieces of it that were forgotten.

The pyrotechnics on defense and special teams, and afterwards from Cardinals coach Dennis Green, stand the test of time and really haven’t faded all that much for fans and for the players who ignited them.

No game went further to cement the national legends of Devin Hester and Brian Urlacher. They and others reestablished the kind of core feeling that in Chicago, the defense would always do something to get things back in balance. Afterwards, the questions and comparisons with the 1985 Bears defense began in earnest, to the eventual point of irritation for members of both defenses. "We watched the film,” Hester said later, “and everybody was saying that [Urlacher] just turned into the Incredible Hulk the last four minutes of the game, just killing people and running over and tackling whoever had the ball."

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But that game was also really the beginning of the end of what little there was of what was to be a franchise-launching move, the drafting of Rex Grossman, a first-round pick that was going to end the years of quarterback famine or uncertainty (the “uncertainty” part remains ongoing).

Grossman appeared to have shaken the injury curse that that beset his first three years; he would start all 16 games, win two playoff games and have as many 100-plus passer ratings (seven) as Peyton Manning that year.

Instead, it was a game from which some wondered whether Grossman ever recovered, arguably the start of “Good Rex/Bad Rex” cycles that defined him ultimately. He was coming up in MVP what-if discussions before that game. After that....

“Before that game we were No. 1 in the league offensively,” recalled center Roberto Garza, the right guard on that offensive line. “After that….”

The Bears had 65 yards of offense and two first downs to show for 30 minutes of football, using that term advisedly here.

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"I've never played so bad and won a game like that,” Grossman said afterwards. "It was unbelievable."

Cardinal defensive backs had more yards (88) returning Grossman passes than Bears receivers did (57) catching them. Grossman handed the football to the Cardinals almost as many times (four) in the first half as he did to running back Thomas Jones (six).

Cedric Benson, whom the Bears made the No. 5 overall pick of the 2005 draft because of Jones’ continued mediocrity (Jones only became the man after the arrival of Benson), carried one time for four yards.

But the death spiral that started in the first half and lasted throughout wasn’t the last. Grossman’s passer rating for the game was 10.2, to be followed before the season was out with games of 1.3 and 0.0.

Still, the evening had something that went far, far beyond the troubles of the offense. Indeed, the sense afterwards recalled the kind of sense that was left after the Bears had gone into Dallas in 1985 and destroyed the Cowboys 44-0. Different teams, different times, but the same sense of something special in the offing.

It was difficult not to have that feeling that the Bears of that year had indeed been sprinkled with a bit of pixie dust and that good things were just going to happen. To wit:

After the Bears went ahead by that 24-23 score, the Cardinals had kicker Neil Rackers in position for a 40-yard field goal. Rackers had been to the Pro Bowl the year before. Rackers had converted from 41, 28 and 29 yards already.

And Rackers missed wide right.

It was that kind of game. And the Super Bowl loss notwithstanding, it was going to be that kind of season.