Who we thought they were.

The Bears-at-Arizona game in 2006 was something that will be forever etched in the old noggin. It was a Monday night game; the Bears’ first in some time. They’d been insanely awesome so far that season, with the highest-scoring offense and the best defense in the league. Dad came over to my and my brother’s apartment to watch the game on the big TV.

The Bears collapsed in the first half. Rex Grossman had four turnovers before halftime, and the defense was helpless against such poor field position. It was humiliating. Arizona 20, Chicago 0 at halftime. Dad went home and went to bed.

And then the defense and special teams went nuts. The Bears and Cardinals traded field goals, and then the Bears scored three touchdowns on returns. I repeat: the Bears came back and won without a single offensive touchdown. Bears 24-23. My brother and I flipped out, ran all over the apartment, probably pissed off the downstairs neighbors but that’s too bad, called Dad and woke him up to give him the good news. It was perfect. Dennis Green’s meltdown was the cherry on top.

Actually, no, the meltdown was the whipped cream on top. The cherry on top was the fact that that was his last season coaching in the NFL.

Anyhow, last night’s win over the Niners reminded me of that game against Arizona. They got off to a miserable start: penalty on the opening kickoff, blocked punt, surrendered a touchdown on a play that should’ve been blown dead for delay of game, stupid penalties that kept Niner drives alive, an interception called back on review. All in the first quarter. Mercifully, the Niners led only 17-0 at the two-minute warning.

And then the Bears turned it around in San Francisco’s stupid new stadium in a way they haven’t done since that night long ago in Arizona’s stupid new stadium. From that point on, it was a completely, entirely different game. The defense finally looked normal (i.e., “good”), got four turnovers, and got four sacks. On Kaepernick, of all people. And the much-vaunted offense turned it on at long last, despite injuries to Marshall and Jeffrey. Bears 28-20.

They’re in first place in the NFC North. Granted, so is everyone else in the division, but work with me. The offense can be as good as it was last year. The defense doesn’t have to be 1985-good or 2006-good, they just have to be better than last year, say a touchdown per game better. God and Ditka willing, last night was the start of something special.