Even though I watched the Bears/Broncos game from my parents’ living room in southern Indiana, I didn’t need to be in Denver to know what five words were going through every Broncos fan’s head — we are going to win. Me? Naturally, I was thinking the opposite. I didn’t need Marion Barber’s two blunders or Caleb Hanie’s uncanny ability to hold onto the ball for what seemed like a decade to remind me that no matter how many Robbie Gould bombs split the uprights, dazzling Devin Hester returns or stingy plays our defense makes, we were bound to fold. Jay Cutler’s thumb, Matt Forte’s knee, they were just signs.
For fans, it comes down to one word: faith.
Faith. The one word you can use to describe the driving force these two teams and the polar opposite directions they’re going in. Despite the Broncos’ complete ineptitude during three quarters, it seems like there’s switch gets flipped in the last 15 minutes and their defense locks in, their kicker’s range seems unlimited, and Tim Tebow’s unquestionable will, desire and ability to bring out the best in his teammates takes over.
And the Bears? Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers and the defense remain vigilant. Their special teams proves time and time again to be a game changer. What’s missing though? Jay Cutler and Matt Forte? Sure, that’d be too easy. Gabe Carimi and Chris Williams? Yeah, them too. But what about our faith? Where is it?
As Tim Tebow gave his post-game interview, he talked about his faith in God, his religion. “If you believe,” Tebow said, “then unbelievable things can sometimes be possible.”
Coming out of the draft, that was what commentators and football brass kept coming back to. It was his faith, his horrible throwing mechanics, his inability to read defenses. Not the fact that he was a winner in college and sometimes, that’s all that counts. Some players just win.
The team rallies around the concept of faith. Not so much religion, but the concept of team. Denver believes that regardless of what the score is, they’re going to win the game. Tim Tebow completes two passes through one half? Doesn’t matter. They’ll find a way to claw it out.
When Jay Cutler broke is thumb, fans cringed. Our crystal clear wild card picture became a little blurrier. Then, Matt Forte’s knee went kaput. The picture is now a Jackson Pollock painting.
But was it because of injuries? Coaching? Play calling? Or was it because, as a team, as a fan base, as a community, we lost faith? Was our faith in those two guys (Forte and Cutler) and not the team? For nearly a decade, the Bears defense and special teams have been staples. We rode them to division titles, playoff berths, even a Super Bowl appearance. Just an appearance, though, not a victory. So now, with a competent quarterback, a versatile running back who leads by example, the only step that wouldn’t feel like a letdown would be a Super Bowl ring.
Fans experience duress when our teams begin spiraling out of control. We feel helpless. We live vicariously through our teams. When they win, we won. When they lose, our hearts get ripped out. People have answers for our third straight collapse, ask around. Caleb Hanie doesn’t have the chops to lead a team. Our offensive line keeps getting shuffled and can’t seem to keep whoever is behind it upright. Marion Barber, despite 107 yards and a touchdown, ran out of bounds when the Bears just needed to run out the clock. Then, just in case the cake needed a little more icing, Denver kicker Matt Prater banged an inhuman 59-yard field goal as time expired to send it into overtime.
Barber had a chance to redeem himself. As he trudged through a huge hole, Denver defender Wesley Woodyard stripped the ball and well… the box score doesn’t lie.
With Atlanta and Detroit winning, the Bears certainly need to run the table in order to have a shot to maintain a wild card shot. Denver’s win pushed them into the top of their division. Two teams going in opposite directions. In the end, it comes down to faith. Denver has proved over the last two months their community certainly has it. Even John Elway, the man who seemed like he didn’t even consider Tim Tebow a viable option. Even he believes. Bears fans? Honestly, I’m not sure what we believe in.