Game 4 - Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears

Trip Start Sep 06, 2013
Trip End Sep 08, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Sunday, September 8, 2013

We didn't plan to go to a Bears game when we set up the trip.  The NFL schedule actually didn't come out until just before we bought our plane tickets.  Once we saw the Bears had a home game that weekend, we actually changed our flight plans to be able to make the game.  Of course, the tickets for the opening weekend of a Chicago Bears game sold out before we even had a chance to think about buying them, so we had to resort to the after-market tickets.  Stubhub was way too expensive early on, so we waited.  We arrived without Bears tickets, and we went to three other games that weekend without Bears tickets in hand.  As we were driving from Jackson, Michigan to Chicago on Sunday morning, I used my trusty iPhone to search Craig's list and Stubhub for tickets.  They were a bit expensive on Stubhub, and the Craig's list tickets would have been difficult to get prior to the game.  Plus, we had been warned both by a Bears fan on Friday and by our ticket broker friend Leroy at Michigan State to watch out for counterfeit tickets to the Bears games.  Then I remembered NFL ticket exchange.  I navigated to that website about an hour before the game and found tickets in the lower section of the corner of the endzone for just a teeny bit above face value.  After a quick mapping to the Kinko's nearest to the stadium, we stopped to print off our tickets that had been emailed to me, and we were off to the game!  

 Stadium - Soldier Field was originally built in 1924 as a memorial to American soldiers who have died in wars.  During our drive to the stadium, it was clear that it has gone through a few renovations.  It looks like somebody plopped Deep Space Nine on top of the Parthenon.  Once we got into the stadium, it seemed a little more homogeneous.  It was intersting, though, how it was a little bit Fung Sui in the way the upper deck wrapped around the ends and the jumbotrons at each end were a little bit off-center.  The seats were comfortable, and there was plenty of room.  The concessions were more of the same from the previous two days.  It seems the Midwest stadiums haven't quite gotten past the bratwurst, pizza, hamburger options.  One thing I noticed when we were walking out is that they made absolutely no effort at hiding the facilities for the building.  Three were conduits, pipes, and ducts everywhere.  It looked like a subfab (you'll get that if you've ever worked at a semiconductor company). 

True to the name of the stadium, the Bears organization honored several soldiers from the Chicago area during the game, and they always got a standing ovation, which was pretty cool.   Rating - 7 of 10.

Tailgating - Since we arrived at the stadium as the game was starting, we really didn't experience any tailgating.  I read of a tailgating lot, but we were far too late to find it.  Considering we had to park about a mile north of the stadium and take a shuttle, I suspect the tailgating was fairly limited compared to a lot of stadiums.  But, I can't really rate it for this game.  Rating - NA of 10.

 The Game - We arrived just as the Bears were in the process of capitalizing on a turnover to score their first touchdown.  The Bengals answered with two more touchdowns before Bears kicker Robbie Gould set a franchise record and Soldier Field record with a 58-yard field goal (and earned five points for my fantasy team) to go into the locker room at halftime down 14-10.  The Bengals scored a touchdown on a short run after a pass interference call that put the ball on the one yard line to go up 21-10, but the Bears answered with a beautifully orchestrated 80-yard drive to make it 21-17.  The Bengals responded with a costly fumble at the Bears 17-yard-line, and the Bears drove 83 yards for another touchdown to go ahead 24-21.  Toward the end of the game, the Bengals stopped running back Michael Bush on third down and would have had one last shot at the win, or at least a tie with a field goal.  However, linebacker Rey Maualuga committed an inexcusable personal foul penalty to allow the Bears to win by simply kneeling the ball down.  The Bengals were having their way with the Bears on offense, but they had three turnovers that cost them dearly.  This was a fairly sloppy game overall, but it was close and very entertaining.  Rating - 8 of 10. 

 The Band - I didn't think this would be a category for an NFL game, but we were treated to a performance by the Marching Illini from the University of Illinois featuring music from The Who.  One impressive thing to note is that they played this show on an NFL field rather than the college fields on which they are use to playing.  That's important because marching bands use the markings on the field to know where they are, and the hash marks on NFL fields are closer to the middle of the field than the college hash marks.  I felt they marched and played fairly well.  They had really good sound, and they played a lot while marching.  They had some complicated formations, but they were a little sloppy getting there.   

Overall, I thought they were pretty good.  They definitely played to the crowd by playing "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" as they marched off (see the Fans section).  I'd like to see them in their college environment playing a little bit longer halftime show and playing during timeouts, but I can only rate what they did for this game.  Rating - 7 of 10.

 Fans - The Bears fans are certainly passionate fans.  They have a cool tradition of singing the Bears fight song, "Bear Down, Chicago Bears," after every score, and they gave each other some good-natured grief if somebody didn't have it memorozed and had to read the words from the scoreboard.  Here are the lyics:

Bear down, Chicago Bears, make every play clear the way to victory.
Bear down, Chicago Bears, put up a fight with a might so fearlessly.
We'll never forget the way you thrilled the nation with your T formation.
Bear down, Chicago Bears, and let them know why you're wearing the crown.
You're the pride and joy of Illinois, Chicago Bears, Bear down.

There were several fans wearing Bengals jerseys, and I didn't hear a single thing shouted at them, by a Bears fan before, during, or after the game. I realize there isn't a big rivalry between Chicago and Cincinnati, and it may be different for a Packers or Vikings game.  But, this is the game I'm rating, and they were very accommodating to the Bengals fans.

The only real knock I have is that the stadium tended to get louder when the Bears were preparing for some important 3rd down plays rather than staying quiet.  The rather entertaining lady behind us consistently pointed it out with her own ironically loud "Shut up!" whenever the crowd got loud at the wrong times.   Rating - 8 of 10.    

 Best Player - It wasn't easy to pick the best player in this game, since there were actually a few options.  If you just counted the first half, it would have easly been Bengals receiver A.J. Green.  He ended the game with nine receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns.  A case could also be made for Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict with his eight tackles and an interception.  His impact was also fairly obvious by his absence.  He got hurt on the interception and didn't return.  Chicago promply drove over 80 yards for the winning touchdown.  Jay Cutler had a pretty decent game, too.  He engineered two drives of over 80 yards while throwing for 242 yards and two touchdowns.  But, the best player in this game was Bears cornerback Charles Tillman and his two interceptions. 

Overall -  Chicago Bears.  Soldier Field.  NFL Opening weekend.  Six touchdowns.  A record-setting field goal.  A game that came down to the last minute.  This was a great way to cap off the Ultimate Sports Weekend!   Rating - 8 of 10.
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