2006 is quickly becoming the Diet 1985 of the Chicago Bears organization. It is the year writers and fans now point to as that by which all championship-caliber teams must be measured. Nobody, at least nobody with a working brain, believes the 2006 team could have stayed within double-digits of the Monsters. (Could you imagine Fred Miller blocking Richard Dent?) But they are, nevertheless, the modern model for the Bears franchise. No team has since ’85 has come closer to glory.
The marks of that 2006 team were many. Early blowouts. Quarterbacking disasters late. They are who we thought they were (and we let ’em off the hook). Following a ridiculous home loss to Joey Harrington and the Dolphins with two gritty, impressive road wins in the Meadowlands. Devin Hester’s returns. Thomas Jones’ runs. Desmond Clark’s endless big catches. Rashied Davis and Robbie Gould beating the Seahawks in the Divisional round. (I’m quickly realizing as I type how much I loved 2006.)
2006 was the year the Bears survived injuries to Tommie Harris and Mike Brown. It was the year a mediocre quarterback, journeyman tailback and band of no-name receivers (with a jackass wearing #87) were able to keep a conference off balance for the duration of a season.
If 2010 is to become the kind of year worth remembering, it must be the year the stars emerge and plays like stars. Urlacher and Briggs have done the job over the first quarter of the season. Cutler was a surgeon against the Cowboys and Peppers was unblockable against the Pack. Hester returned his kick. Those performances were thrilling but now they are needed. Each of the five. To resurrect the ego of a bruised ballclub. The five-star players on this roster must put the porous offensive line, inexperienced safeties and invisible “other” defensive end (who may have just left the UFL) on their backs and bring this team to 4-1.
I’m not big on saying players have “pressure” on them. But to me, on Sunday, those five do. I know Cutler doesn’t have the protection he needs but it’s time for him to elevate his game above that. I know Peppers is drawing doubles on every play but it’s time for him to hit the quarterback five or six times on an afternoon. I know Hester is still learning a position but it’s time for that speed to dominate a defense. I’ve seen Brian and Briggs take over games. It’s time for another.
Sunday. Carolina. No excuses. The higher the contract, the heavier the pressure. Because if the Chicago Bears allow one poor performance to hinder their drive to the postseason, I know where I’ll be directing my rage.