Going into the Saints game, we were confident, relaxed and definitely well prepared. You'd never have known we had a chance if you'd read any of the articles written about this game last week.
I have to admit that the constant media reports that said we're not going to do well were more than a little annoying. I felt we were disrespected before we even had a chance to get on the field against New Orleans. But that was pretty much what has happened to this team all season. We may be the worst team ever to reach the Super Bowl, or at least we are according to these people.
It's interesting how that type of negative publicity worked in our favor. We went out there Sunday with chips on our shoulders and something to prove. We were ready to make a statement immediately then kept on hitting hard for the rest of the game. Things pretty much went according to our plan.
When we faced the Saints, there were no surprises. We'd spent a lot of time last week breaking down film and forming our game plan.
Drew Brees is a strong quarterback. There's no question that he knows what he's doing out there. The thing we were aiming to do with him was to get in his face as quickly as possible. The less time he had to make good decisions, the better for us. We wanted to shut down the Saints' running and passing options by being very aggressive. Our goal was to play our brand of dominant defensive football from the opening minutes right through the fourth quarter.
The keys for our defense were our speed, our strength and the ability to get right on the ball. We've been working a lot during practice last week on takeaways, which turned out pretty well for us today.
The home-field advantage was definitely in play, as well. The crowd was into the game from the beginning, and they stayed with us right through the end. It was very emotional for the players. You could tell how much this all meant to our fans. We wanted to do our best for them and bring the championship to Chicago.
It's difficult to express the feelings that I had stepping out of the tunnel and on to the field today. There was this tremendous roar from the crowd. It really got us all going. As soon as I heard that, any nerves that I'd had up to that point disappeared. I'll admit that I had a difficult time getting any sleep the night before. As long as that didn't detract from my performance in the game, losing some sleep turned out fine.
Weather wasn't too much of a factor despite the fact that it got pretty wet and cold at times. I think in a game at this level, you are concentrating on the plays to such an extent that the weather is completely out of your mind. If anything, the conditions helped us with a few of the Saints' turnovers. That ball tended to get pretty slippery.
As far as the turf, it got a little slick at times, but we were able to use different cleats to get the best footing. That was something both teams had to handle, so it wasn't an advantage one way or the other.
This team felt all along that we'd come out on top today. We spent a lot of time taking care of our bodies last week to be sure we'd all be in condition. The coaches didn't take anything for granted.
There were signs in the locker room at Halas Hall reminding us to rest and sleep. It worked. Our energy level was as good at the end as it was at the beginning, I'm sure that the weeks between now and the Super Bowl will be more of the same - hard practices, a lot of film study, and resting our bodies as much as possible.
We'll take some time to celebrate this win, then we'll put it out of our minds and refocus for the next game. This is the biggest event in pro football that we're heading to, so nobody is taking it lightly.
When I look back at this season, it seems almost like a dream. There's no rookie in this league who wouldn't tell you his ultimate wish is to go to the Super Bowl. And think of all the veterans out there who have never had this opportunity. Every player in the NFL wants this chance.
There's not much else to say right now except that I expect to see a lot of Bears fans in Miami. And for those of you who will be watching from home, enjoy the game. We'll know that you're out there cheering for us. I hope next time you see us, we'll be in downtown Chicago holding that trophy.
Mark Anderson writes his Rookie Diary every Wednesday exclusively for BearReport.com.