On This Date in Sports October 16, 2006: Who We Thought They Are
In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The Chicago Bears improve to 6-0 as the Arizona Cardinals let them off the hook. The Bears tailed 20-0 a the half as the Cardinals in their first Monday Night game at their new stadium in Glendale looked for a big win entering at 1-4. Down 23-3 late in the third quarter, the Bears comeback began when Mike Brown had a short scoop and score. Charles Tillman added a 40-yard fumble return in the fourth quarter, while Deven Hester gave Chicago the lead with an 80-yard punt return. After the Cardinals coach Dennis Green had a memorable meltdown, saying, "The Bears are who we thought they were," after their 24-23 win.
It was expected to be a season of great things for the Arizona Cardinals, who, after nearly 20 years in the desert, finally found a stadium to call their own. University of Phoenix Stadium was the first of its kind. A stadium that had its field on rollers to go outside the retractable-roof stadium to receive sunlight. After winning the opener at their home stadium against the San Francisco 49ers, the Cardinals coached by Dennis Green lost their next four games, including two narrow losses at home as they had a 1-4 record entering a Monday Night game against the Chicago Bears.
The Chicago Bears had been off to a great start in 2006, winning their first five games for coach Lovie Smith. The Bears season started with a 26-0 shutout of the rival Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. They were playing dominant football in the early part of the season. Coming into the Monday Night game against the Cardinals, the Bears had beaten the Seattle Seahawks 37-6 and Buffalo Bills 40-7 in their last two games. Needless to say, everyone thought the Bears were among the best teams in the NFL.
The Cardinals took control of the game right away after the Bears went three and out on the opening possession. The Cardinals marched down the field and took a 7-0 lead as Bryant Johnson caught an 11-yard pass from Matt Leinart. Following an interception by Aaron Francisco, the Cardinals made it 14-0 as Leinart connected with Anquan Boldin on a 28-yard touchdown pass. The Cardinals knew the game was not over, having blown a 14-0 lead against the Kansas City Chiefs the previous week. The Bears' offense continued to struggle in the second quarter as Rex Grossman was intercepted again; he also fumbled as the Bears committed six turnovers and could not move the ball all night. The Cardinals managed just two Neil Rackers field goals and led 20-0 at the half.
The Bears finally got on the board in the third quarter on a 23-yard field goal by Robbie Gould. The Cardinals, however, quickly answered on a 29-yard field goal by Neil Rackers. Right at the end of the third quarter, the game shifted in favor of Chicago as Mark Anderson stripped Matt Leinart on a sack. Mark Anderson picked up the ball, who had a nine-yard return for a touchdown, to give new life to the Bears. With just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Bears had another scoop and score, as Brian Urlacher ripped the ball from Edgerrin James, allowing Charles Tillman to pick the ball up and run 40-yards to make it a one-score game at 23-17. After the Bears stopped Arizona on the next possession, their new weapon Devin Hester rocked the Cardinals with an 83-yard punt return that gave the Bears a 24-23 lead with three minutes remaining. The Cardinals were able to get into field goal position, but Rackers missed a 40-yard field goal wide left as the Bears won the game.
The Bears' 24-23 win was their biggest comeback in 19 years. The Cardinals became the first team to have two touchdown leads after the first quarter and lose in consecutive weeks. The Bears had just 168 yards total offense, six turnovers, and the Cardinals had a 2-to-1 time of possession advantage. However, as Dennis Green yelled, the Cardinals had let them off the hook.
The Bears would finish the season 13-3 and go to the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history. The Bears were who we thought they were but lost to the Indianapolis Colts 29-17. The Cardinals, meanwhile finished 5-11, leading to the dismissal of coach Dennis Green.