Most NFL preseason games aren't interesting. However, the Chicago Bears second preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts has an interesting storyline. It's a Super Bowl XLI rematch.
Let's take a look back at the Bears' 2006 season, the last time they appeared in a Super Bowl.
The Bears, commanded by head coach Lovie Smith, cruised through the regular season and the playoffs with a 13-3 record, the best in the crowded NFC.
The 2006 season was Smith's masterclass.
Smith's coaching philosophy produced a winning formula. The Chicago Bears won games thanks to their stout defense, which ranked third in the league. This rebirth of The Monsters of the Midway featured a three-headed juggernaut of Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman -- Bears legends. The Bears' defense also featured several heavy hitters like Tommie Harris, Danieal Manning, Ricky Manning (the Manning twins) and Mike Brown. The Bears allowed just 255 points (15.9 points per game) and generated 44 turnovers.
Make no mistake, the Bears' shutdown defense carried them to the Super Bowl. The Bears' defensive coordinator was Ron Rivera, a member of the 1985 Bears that went on to have a successful head coaching career after his time in Chicago.
On the other side of the football, the offense kept it simple. They implemented a smashmouth offense, running the ball down opposing defenses' throats thanks to a running back tandem of Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson. Their run-heavy style allowed quarterback Rex Grossman to live through his best season as a pro, guiding the Bears to the NFC title.
How could we forget about special teams? This was Devin Hester's breakout year as a return specialist, shattering rookie return records. Between returning kicks and punts, Hester scored a league-leading five touchdowns. Hester's game-changing returns became an X-factor for the Bears.
Whenever the Chicago Bears needed a big play, it always seemed like Hester delivered. In Super Bowl XLI, Hester scored the game's first touchdown on a 92-yard kickoff return. After the fact, the Bears scored on a four-yard passing touchdown from Rex Grossman to receiver Mushin Muhammad.
By the end of the first quarter, the Bears held a commanding 14-6 lead over Manning's Colts. Even the elements were on the Bears' side. Super Bowl XLI was held on a rainy Sunday night in Miami, Florida. The Bears' run-heavy, hard-hitting philosophy was perfect for the harsh weather. Meanwhile, the Colts pass-first offense wasn't as well suited for the rain.
Unfortunately, even with a commanding lead and the weather on their side, the first quarter was the last time the Bears held a lead. By halftime, the Colts were up 16-14.
After a halftime show by the late, great Prince (who sang "Purple Rain" in the rain), the game continued. The Colts spread offense caught wind and started picking up yards. The Bears top-five defense was reduced to a "bend but don't break" defense against Manning's Colts. They kept the Colts out of the end zone, but Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri booted 3-out-of-4 kicks during the game, swaying the game in the Colts' direction by a short margin.
What really sealed the deal for the Bears was their offense. When you're trailing in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, your run-heavy philosophy that worked all season is put to the test. In this tough situation, the Bears needed to pass more. The results were mixed at best.
Grossman threw for 165 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions (one was returned 56 yards for a pick-six) for a 68.3 passer rating. He also fumbled twice thanks to the rainy conditions and several botched snaps with center Olin Kreutz.
Grossman's performance in Super Bowl XLI was a factor as to why the Bears lost the big game. It's understood in sports that not all the blame can be placed on one player, but if Grossman stepped up and made a handful of solid passes, who knows if the Colts win?
By the end of the game, Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and the Colts outmanned the Bears, beating them in a heartbreaking 29-17 defeat. Manning finally won his first Super Bowl ring and was crowned Super Bowl MVP as the Bears went back to the locker room in earnest.
The Bears haven't been to the Super Bowl since. They got close in 2010 by reaching the NFC Championship Game, but they lost at Soldier Field to the Green Bay Packers, their arch-nemesis.
Fast forward 16 years later, and the Bears and Colts are playing each other in the preseason. The teams don't play often, but when they do, it's always a reminder of that painful Super Bowl loss.