Like his teammates, Bears defensive end Julius Peppers was practically… (Brian Cassella/Chicago…)
I was walking through the service level hallway in the bowels of Soldier Field heading to the locker room for postgame interviews when a roar ripped round the stadium.
"Oh man!" shouted a stadium employee about the Bears, who trailed Seattle 17-14 with 20 seconds remaining. "I think they scored!" They had not, but Brandon Marshall had hauled in a pass and dashed 56 yards on the first play of the Bears' final, desperate drive, and now Soldier Field was shaking with maniacal glee.
"Holy crap!" I yelled. I darted down a corridor in the southeast corner of the stadium and stood on the lip of the tunnel, watching as Robbie Gould walked onto the field for a chance to send the Bears into overtime.
The fans were pleading with their kicker. "Make it, Robbie!" came a shout from the stands. "You have to MAKE it!" And bang-bang-bang, snap, hold, kick, and as the ball passed through the uprights and the clock read 0:00, a wave of applause and screams and relief rumbled through the air.
But that was all they'd get. Seattle picked up first downs on its first two plays of overtime, converted three third downs and won on a 13-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Sidney Rice. Seahawks 23, Bears 17.
There was no sound in the locker room after the game. Players had the look in their eyes of abject pain mixed with complete shock. At his locker, Julius Peppers sat in a daze. I approached him for an interview. "I need to shower first," he said softly.
While he did, I spoke with other defensive players. Again and again, the phrase "we just couldn't get off the field" popped up. Guys would pause and search for another explanation, but ultimately they sighed and said, "Just couldn't get off the field."
Back at his locker and getting dressed, Peppers spoke with reporters. I was the last to speak with him as he walked out of the locker room. I spoke quietly and cautiously. "What does this feel like, right here, right now, even after so many years?"
"Disappointing," Peppers said. "That's probably the only word for it. Disappointing." He paused, and thought, and shook his head and sighed. "Disappointing," and he wheeled his suitcase out of the locker room and walked away.
Special contributor Jack M Silverstein covers the Bears for RedEye. Say hey @ReadJack.
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