The unique beauty of the snowflakes falling on Soldier Field was rudely interrupted by Jared Goff’s grimacing face. He yelped as he released his throw, sailing the ball high and off target before grabbing his ears and crumbling to the ground. The Cooks-directed ball flew so far off-target that Kyle Fuller—who’d been in excellent position in man coverage—had to lay out completely just to intercept the wobbling lob.
As the Bears’ offense took the field, chaos erupted on the visitors’ sideline. The Bears (since they weren’t cheaters) couldn’t hear what was said, but they could see Goff pointing to his right ear, making a pouty face and shrugging multiple times as Sean McVay yelled, threw his tablet down, picked it up, slammed it on the bench and threw it on the turf again.
For the Bears’ first offensive play, Trubisky effortly flicked a dump-off to Jordan Howard who caught the ball with somehow even less effort and carried it, along with two Rams defenders, for 24 yards. After the play, Trubisky called his receivers close in the huddle.
“AR12,” he began, “Peters gave you a ton of room on that play. If he does that again, I’ve got an audible for you: Frat bros are tight with each other right? So if I shout a Greek letter, you run a tight curl, and I’ll hit you right away.”
The Bears worked down the field, overcoming the Rams’ top-two defense with precise execution. Trubisky hit Allen Robinson for one “upsilon” audible and one “iota” audible, both leading to easy receptions and first-down conversions, causing Peters to creep up and start covering him closer.
Biscuit called his receivers close again.
“Ok, Allen. If he comes up on you like that again, I’ve got a new audible. Airplanes fly, right? So if he presses you, I’ll say the name of an airline and you’ll do a fly route.”
The plan worked perfectly. Peters pressed Robinson on the next play, and when MT10 called out, “Virgin,” AR12 beat him quickly off the line and pranced straight towards the end zone on a fly route. Trubisky’s throw sailed through the soft downfall like a beautiful snowbow, falling weightlessly into the receiver’s XXL gloves. Safety help was delayed just a second too long because Lamarcus Joyner stopped to chuckle at the word ‘virgin’ and Robinson was unimpeded as he leaped into the end zone and rolled in the snow like a polar bear cub learning joy for the first time.
Jared Goff looked back at the sideline and shrugged when the Rams took the field again. The Rams’ drive started relatively well, with a one-yard run stuffed by Eddie Goldman, a screen pass blown up for loss by Leonard Floyd, and no screams of pain from their mediocre young quarterback.
Until third and long. Again, as Jared reached back to throw, a desperate yip squeaked out of his throat and he pulled the ball back in, hugging it close to his chest and curling inward as Akiem Hicks smoshed into him. In Goff’s bent-over position, Akiem’s belly crushed right into the quarterback’s helmet, pressing into the facemask so that Jared could feel the sweat-soaked orange jersey press against his forehead, warming and comforting him as he fell to the ground for a sack.
Goff and McVay continued their heated conversation on the sideline as the special teams unit punted the ball out of bounds—something the Bears had become accustomed to after Cohen’s tenth return touchdown. The Bears offense returned to the field, and Marcus Peters lined up off the line, not as far off as he had originally but not close like he had on the touchdown play. Trubisky still liked what he saw.
“Delta! Delta!” Trubisky yelled just before the snap. Robinson sprinted past Peters as Trubisky released an instant-speed pass, timed perfectly for a quick curl. The result was a dart heading straight towards a wide-open Marcus Peters, who snatched the ball and ran it back several yards before Trubisky himself managed to wrap him up with textbook tackling technique and throw him to the ground.
“What the hell happened?” Robinson asked as they met on the sideline.
“What happened with me? What the hell happened with you! I threw the curl and you weren’t there,” the league MVP responded.
“You said an airline so I ran a fly!” AR12 explained.
“I said a Greek letter so you would run a quick curl!”
The two Bears were so upset, they couldn’t see the obvious source of their confusion until Charles Leno Jr. stepped in and calmly reminded them that delta was both an airline and a Greek letter. It was something they would be able to laugh about in short time. The defense was about to get the ball back, and they would then continue to pile toppings onto the unanswered 50-burger the Bears would ultimately drop on the star-studded Rams.
On the other sideline, the Bears could see Goff grasping his right ear again. The Rams equipment manager ran out to the sideline from the locker room, rushing to deliver an unknown electronic device to Goff, who removed his headset and put the new device under his helmet. When Goff finally retook the field, it was clear he didn’t have Sean McVay’s pre-snap direction in his ear anymore, but he also didn’t cringe in pain for the rest of the game.
The Bears all huddled around the projector in Trubisky’s custom Bear Cave film room to watch the Eagles Seahawks game and find out who they would play in the NFC Championship. Everyone’s eyes were fixed to the screen in the final moments as the Eagles tried to grind-out the clock to secure a 21 to 17 victory. Everyone, that is, except for Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman, who were nowhere to be seen, and Leonard Floyd, who was napping on a plus-size hibernation bean bag, confident that they would beat whoever came to Soldier Field next weekend.
The Bears cheered in unison at what would prove to be the game-deciding moment. Jay Ajayi reached the ball around Shaquem Griffin’s left side, holding it forward to seal the lead with a first down, until Griffin punched the ball out with his handless left arm. The Seahawks then managed to score on a Wilson scramble-pass to Tyler Lockett, and our Beloved knew they would have an easy path to the Superbowl.
The camera cut to the sideline where Colleen Wolfe was beginning a post-game interview with Ajayi.
“So Jay, great game, but you know I have to ask you about that last play. You were literally within reach of a first down that would win the game. What happened?” Colleen asked the Eagles’ London-born star runner.
“To be honest mate, I’m a bit cheesed off. Look, at play’s start the backfield was chockablock with hawks, right? So I had to bodge it a little to get outside. But then I saw a big hole and I was right chuffed. Then this wazzock comes at me with one hand. So I stiff-arm his good side and reach the ball out around his rubbish limb. And what does this tosser do? He punches the ball out with his bloody stump. How could I have known he could do that? Turdsmarts! He shouldn’t be allowed.”
“Ok,” Wolfe began cautiously, “so if I understand you correctly. You underestimated Griffin because of his lack of his left hand, and you don’t think it’s fair that he was able to make an incredible play because you didn’t expect from him.”
“That’s bang on, mate. It’s codswallop!”
“Well. I’m not sure what to say to that... Good game... Maybe don’t check twitter tonight, and sleep it off?”
The screen cut quickly to Patrick Claybon interrupting the broadcast for a developing news update.
“There’s been an unprecedented development in the world of sports gambling,” Claybon began. “Hours before yesterday’s Bears Rams game started, gamballers.com changed their odds and the money line bet on the Bears became considerably cheaper than all other sites. As a result, thousands bet on the Bears on gamballers, but those betting on the Rams went to other places with more realistic odds. With the Bears winning, this will result in millions in payouts for the start-up company.
“CEO Reese Silverspoon is claiming the company was hacked, but experts are saying the company will either go bankrupt making the payments or lose all credibility if they refuse to make payments because of the reported hack.”
The screen quickly cut to Aditi Kinkhabwala with a breaking news update.
“Sorry to interrupt you Patrick, but the Packers and Jaguars have just released a joint announcement about what is certainly the biggest trade in recent NFL history. In exchange for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers will receive LT Cam Robinson, LG Andrew Norwell, C Brandon Linder, RG AJ Cann, RT Jermey Parnell, Backup linemen Will Richardson and William Poehls, Quarterback Cody Kessler, naming rights to Everbank Field from 2020 through 2031, a 2022 third round pick, a 2025 first round pick, and a conditional 2078 6th round pick.
“Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone reports he expects Rodgers to be ready to play for next week’s AFC Championship game against Brian Hoyer and the New England Patriots. He declined to comment on whether the same is true about the remainder of their offensive line.”
Hicks and Goldman turned their rented Mustang down the ramp to the bottom floor of the eerily empty Manhattan parking garage. They pulled the convertible into a corner spot and stepped out to into the lot. Their Navy mustang and a nondescript brown van were the only visible vehicles in the dark garage corner. The van’s front windows were tinted and an outdated cardboard sunscreen covered the windshield.
The Pro Bowl linemen approached the van reluctantly, looking around for any suggestion of a more welcoming alternative. Goldman reached his hand up to knock on the side of the van, but hesitated, looking to Hicks for confirmation. Hicks shrugged and tried to peak in to tinted front window. As his nose pressed up against the glass, the van’s side door swung open. This startled the Bears immensely but neither of the stoic athletes batted an eye.
“Get in.” NFL media insider Ian Rapoport spoke quickly in a gruff voice and he slammed the door shut behind the linemen as soon as they’d climbed into the van.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t meet you during your bye week,” Rapoport began as the Bears settled into the pigskin leather seats of the lavishly furnished van. “Your inquiry proved to be more challenging than I originally anticipated.”
“The woman you asked about, Vanessa, is indeed an enforcer for the Chicago outfit. She’s worked for the mob her entire life, as did her mother, and her grandmother before her.
“According the the Outfit, Vanessa’s great grandmother is responsible for giving Al Capone syphilis. As punishment, Capone decreed the first born child for each subsequent generation of her family line be indentured to the mafia for life.”
“Is that true?” Hicks asked.
“Of course it’s true. I’m Ian f#&^%ing Rapoport,” the NFL media insider responded.
“That’s basically what my insider said,” Goldman boasted.
“Your insider was ‘basically’ off by three generations,” Hicks retorted before turning his attention back to Ian. “I didn’t mean to question you, Mr. Rapoport, Sir,” Hicks continued. “I meant, is what the Outfit claims true? Did Vanessa’s grandma really give Capone syphilis?”
“Oh. Probably not. Most believe Capone got syphilis in one of the many brothels he owned. He likely blamed Vanessa’s grandmother out of spite when she broke up with him. But it doesn’t really matter. Once the mafia decides they own you, there’s no arguing.”
“So there’s nothing we can do to get her out?” Goldman asked, unable to forget the hopelessly empty expression on Staley’s face at Jo Ho’s barbeque.
“That’s not for me to say,” Rapoport responded. “You’d have to negotiate with Anthony Taleggiotesta.”
As the Bears turned to each other to discuss this new development, Rapoport looked down to an alert on his phone. He leaned past the Bears to pull a large camera from the front seat. Two cords ran from the back of the camera into the van’s cigarette lighter and tape deck. He dropped the camera on Hicks’ lap.
“Just point this in my direction,” he instructed, as he adjusted his tie and sat comfortably back in his seat.
Trubisky’s projector screen cut from Kinkhabwala for an emergency news break.
“Sorry to interrupt you Aditi,” Ian Rapoport began, “but I’ve just received word that Russell Wilson has come down with an undisclosed illness and is not expected to play in next weeks NFC Conference Championship game against the Chicago Bears. I repeat, he is not expected to play in next weeks game. This coming only moments after Wilson completed the game winning pass in today’s divisional match-up against the Philadelphia Eagles. Still no word on the nature of his illness, but we’ll certainly keep you updated as more information comes it.
“Back to you Aditi.”
The camera stopped recording and Ian pierced his soul-wrenching gaze deep into Akiem Hicks’ unprepared eyes.
“There’s something else you should know,” Rapoport began.
“Russell Wilson isn’t sick. Ciara’s been kidnapped.”