On a frozen night that used to produce 9-7 games in Chicago, the Bears honored one of their five greatest offensive players, the one and only Mike Ditka, the man who was the template for the modern pass-catching tight end, the only man intimately involved with the franchise's two NFL championships in the past 50 years, who has lorded over Chicago football for a lifetime. Ditka, Walter Payton and Gale Sayers are among the handful of modern Bears skill-position players who would have been featured in this kind of explosive ball-movement offense. When the night began, given the fretting all week over the importance of the game, it seemed Ditka's jersey retiring ceremony could have been the only highlight, a diversion for a team needing to get on a run without the customary defense to ignite such a thing.
But the celebration of Ditka, overdue as it was, became secondary, just as he had said during lunch he wanted. Ditka, as everyone around here would expect, exhorted the defense during the afternoon, knowing the potential on offense but not really expecting this kind of breakout performance as the temperatures dropped to nothing. Now, a league knows what these Bears are capable of, the weapons they have for the first time in club history. But the Bears know, too, and there's every reason after seeing what they did to the Cowboys to expect these new Bears to grow on us.