There was noticeable relief and considerable jubilation in the Bears locker room Sunday after the team's hard-fought 48-41 win over the Vikings. Few of the Bears were happier than former – and now current – WR Marty Booker, whose 51-yard reception in the third quarter was one of the highlights of the afternoon.
"I felt so bad that I'd dropped two perfectly good passes earlier today," Booker said after the game. "Perfectly thrown balls. Either one of them could have been an easy score. Kyle [Orton] knew I was frustrated, so he made a point of taking me aside and assuring me that he would give me another opportunity. And, clearly, he was good to his word. I can't say how grateful that he kept his faith in my abilities and that I was finally able to help the team."
Booker admitted to noticeable fatigue from his physical efforts, but he took his perceived physical shortcomings with a grain of salt.
"Hey, I guess I am the old man out there most of the time," said Booker, who at age 32 would hardly be considered elderly in the non-NFL world. "I do what I can, though. But, actually, after I got the score, [Vikings safety] Darren Sharper came over and admitted he was even older than I am. I was definitely happy to hear that."
Booker rejoined the Bears after playing for Miami from 2005-08. He's more than happy to be back in the town he calls home.
"I was glad to have the chance to play in Miami," he said. "But to be back here now, with the exciting things that are happening with this team, well, that's a gift. I love the city. I love the fans. Things couldn't have worked out better for me."
FB Jason McKie has his own view of the 2008 season and his role with the team.
"It's been a wild ride," said McKie. "Up and down and all over the place. At least it hasn't been dull. We have a big win over the Colts, then go down in some games we could have and should have won. Then we had the heartbreaker last weekend followed by the success today. It's crazy, but our record in the division is 2-0. So I guess things have turned out well in the long run."
McKie was particularly pleased with the Bears success Sunday against a strong Vikings defense.
"We knew they'd have a pretty good chance stopping us on the run," he said. "Minnesota has the reputation of being strong off the line and shutting things down quickly. That's why we spent most of the week working on change-ups."
McKee continued his analysis: "We figured correctly that the more options we had, the more problems we could throw at the Vikes' defense. If they always see the same schemes on the other side of the ball, they'll tend to dominate. I think Kyle ended up with something like 283 passing yards with eight receivers, while our rushing total was more like 20-something yards. Even Matt Forte had trouble getting through today. That says it all right there. We as a team like to run the ball, but if that's not a viable option we do have alternatives."
McKie sees his role as that of an all-purpose player, and his unexpected success on special teams Sunday was a pleasant surprise for Bears fan – the fullback averaged 19 yards on two kick returns.
"I'm just happy to be part of the team, and however they want to use me, I have no problem at all," he said. "I've been seeing more action recently in kickoff returns. It's kind of a diversion for the defense. Any opponent is going to want to keep the ball away from Devin [Hester]. We're learning to expect short high kicks or squib kicks. What you won't see are deep kicks heading toward our No. 23. My job is to get right in there with the ball and get just as far as I can downfield before the defense realizes what's going on. That is something the other team isn't expecting. Field position is so important to our game, so that is a vital role to be playing."
"You never want an injury list that goes on that long," said Booker. "Football at this level should be a game of interchangeable parts, so if one goes down, you just put somebody else in there. But often it doesn't work quite that smoothly. There have been many Bears games when our success came due to the efforts of the defense. We on offense felt it was definitely time to repay the favor. We did everything within our power to get points on the board and get this win."
To McKie, much of the credit for the offensive unit's recent success is due to the work of budding star Orton.
"It's not only that he's a great player," McKie said, "but that he's done so much to enable this team and our unit in particular to have chemistry. That makes all the difference when you feel comfortable with your fellow players. You know they will have your back at all times. Kyle is so accomplished, he makes us all look good. He brings so much in terms of leadership."
Although the team had numerous touchdowns, the Bears allowed more points in Sunday's win than they had at any time in franchise history. But to Booker, as long as the scoreboard is in Chicago's favor at the end, nothing else really matters.
"Again, that's a demonstration that we knew exactly what we had to accomplish, and we went out there and got it done," he said. "We've had enough of these tight games. It's a lot of pressure. But if that's what it takes, then so much the better. We scored more points today than the Bears have put on the board in one game in the past few years. We were willing to go out there and do whatever it took."
McKie agreed with Booker's assessment.
"There was no way that we as an offense were going to let Kyle down after the effort he put out today," he said. "I think everybody out there gave it 110 percent. That's what you have to do to succeed in this league. Now we can go into the bye week with a solid division record and a respectable record overall. Hopefully some of the guys who are hurt now will be back to help us when we face Detroit. But if not, we know that we can get it done.
"We have confidence. That might have been the most important thing to come out of this game today."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Chicago Bears for eight years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.
Booker, McKie Feel a Win is a Win
Bear Report Top Stories
Bears Rookie Review: S Deon BushA detailed examination of Chicago Bears fourth-round S Deon Bush, a hard-hitting back-end player who started six games his rookie season.
Bear ReportYesterday at 11:33 AM
AFC Championship preview: Rich with ringsThe AFC Championship on Sunday evening provides two teams rich in Super Bowl history and loaded with talent and experience at quarterback.
Scout NFL NetworkYesterday at 10:02 AM
NFC Championship preview: Aerial mastery?Elite quarterbacks facing shaky secondaries should result in an aerial assault in the NFC Championship.
Scout NFL NetworkYesterday at 8:37 AM
Bears to carry over $8.1 million in cap spaceThe Chicago Bears will roll over more than $8.1 million in cap space to be used next year, which is the eighth highest "carryover" amount in the NFL.
Scout NFL NetworkWednesday at 10:01 AM