By Dan Bernstein
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) -- Delusions of grandeur danced in the back of your mind like so many sugarplum fairies. Admit it.
It was understandable, as the holiday gifts rolled in from around the league. We began considering playoff opponents, mapping out potential paths through the NFC. And Lance Briggs was not only once again active, but starting, bolstering the reeling defense.
Wacky outcomes involving divisional foes acted like intoxicants, turning us into idiots for a while.
Most of us were already emotionally exhausted well before the ball kicked off in Philadelphia, our thumbs sore from hitting the "PREV" button to toggle between Steelers and Packers in the snow and Giants at Lions on the carpet, tracking every ramification back to noon, even, with the Cowboys/Redskins outcome potentially influencing the Eagles' motivation.
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A field goal sails through the uprights and into the net, Matt Flynn's brain takes a ten-second trip to the zoo, the Bears were looking at double-match-point for the divisional title, and Chicago had 45 minutes to breathe, eat, use a bathroom, acknowledge family members (optional) and locate anything previously thrown somewhere in the living room in a fit of pique, such as remote controls, magazines, cups, or small children.
There was the opening song with whichever blonde country star showing off her taut, oiled-up quadriceps, then the broadcasters' hyperbolic evaluations of the combatants, and then the ball in the air.
It would have been nice to have stopped right there, pausing the picture indefinitely and nibbling idly on salami for three hours, but alas, the action continued for the Eagles' buzz-saw to prove a ruthless buzz kill.
The fact that it happened was probably proof that it was needed, like the textbook ten percent correction in financial markets after a feverish bull run. Sometimes teams are merely what we thought they were, but getting to that point includes brief periods of low lows and high highs.
This was a precipitous psychological drop for Bears fans, from the giddy anticipation of a potential clinching celebration all the way down to the reality that even beating the bumbling Packers next week and earning a postseason trip might more likely just earn another dispiriting beatdown at the hands of a quality team.
Remember in college when you and friends would stay up late in a smoky room filled with pizza boxes and conceive of the coolest things ever, writing them down in mad scribbles so as not to lose these epiphanies of pure genius, each one more mind-blowingly awesome than the last, with some other English major adding a complicated layer of observation that totally connected EVERYTHING?
That was about five minutes before tonight's game started.
Remember waking up the next morning, avoiding stepping on pizza crusts and your roommate's arm only to slip into a puddle of puke, then re-reading all that was so important to be recorded for posterity and realizing that it was completely stupid and embarrassing and crumpling it up and throwing it away?
That was the end of the first quarter, and the rest of the game was the rest of the day drinking Gatorade and eating out of an Arby's bag in kind of a mental purgatory. It was a good time, but not all real.
The Bears are kinda good, but not that good. We knew that.
We've been waiting all day for Sunday night, and we're dealing with it the next morning.
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