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Bears in the 21st Century: Which Team is Best (Pt. 2)

Taking a historical look at Bears teams of the last 20-years, and how they stack up head to head before crowing a champion.
Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears Edit 2

In the below, I have taken the stats from every Bears team in the 21st century and put them into my game handicapping model in order to determine which Bears team would win in a tournament of Bears teams. I seeded every Bears team since 2001, and created the match ups based on seeding. The handicapping model heavily relies on Football Outsiders DVOA metrics, time of possession, turnovers, takeaways, points scored, and points allowed. The first round of the "tournament" was covered in part one, which can be found here. This feature covers the second round through the championship.

2nd Round

2nd Rd.PNG

2005 Bears (#5 seed) vs 2010 Bears (#4 seed)

2005 Bears - The Year of the Neckbeard

Regular Season – Three Big Moments

Week 1, 2005 – CHI @ WAS (WAS -6)

This game offered a look at how great this Bears defense could be. The game was all defense, with a rookie fourth round pick trying to lead the Bears flailing offense. The Bears gained 11 first downs, and only allowed Washington to gain 18 first downs. They were outgained 323 yards to 166 yards, and turned the ball over twice, but forced three takeaways. This entire season was the definition of a Lovie Smith team. 

Entering halftime, the Bears trailed 0-6. To open the second half, they got the benefit of a short field, needing only 23 yards to reach the end zone. They were able to gain those 23 yards across a painstaking seven plays, and took the lead 7-6. But, a Washington field goal the next drive did them in, as they couldn’t overcome those three points. 

Despite the loss, this game showed the fan base how special this defense could be, as they dominated the Washington offense all day, and did not allow them reach 10 points. CHI 7 – WAS 9

"The interception was a big play, but I still thought he (Orton) did a good for his first time out. We have to do some things better around him. Even with all that, I thought we were in great shape in the fourth quarter. We were in position to at least be able to get a field goal, and three penalties really knocked us out of it.” – CHI HC Lovie Smith

Week 11, 2005 – CAR vs CHI (CAR -3)

The 7-3 Bears were on a hot streak, winning five straight games as they hosted the 7-2 Panthers. The Panthers had scored 20+ in every game coming into week 11, and this was a true test for the Bears defense. 

Nathan Vasher hauled in two interceptions, Adewale Ogunleye notched three sacks, and Alex Brown forced two fumbles in this game, as they held the Panthers to only three points on the afternoon. Muhsin Muhammad had a solid, if not spectacular, homecoming game, hauling in six receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown against his former team. However, Steve Smith hauled in 14 catches for 169 yards against the Bears typically stingy secondary. A potential sign of things to come. The Panthers were the first winning team the Bears beat this season, and they did so in a dominant defensive fashion. CAR 3 – CHI 13

"I’m playing as well as anybody. Our defense is playing as good as – if not better – than anybody.” – CHI CB Nathan Vasher

Week 15, 2005 – ATL vs CHI (CHI -3)

This was a hyped matchup for Sunday Night Football. The 10-4 Bears had won eight of nine games, and were taking on Michael Vick and the 8-5 Falcons on Sunday night. Rex Grossman was back for his first game of the season, putting rookie Kyle Orton on the bench after an unspectacular first half (2/10, 12 yards). Grossman only played in six games in his NFL career to this point, and it was his third season. 

The former first-round pick was eager to show what he could do for this streaking Bears team, and fans were eager to find out what he was made of. Grossman provided a spark for the offense, but ended the game 9/16 for 93 yards and an interception. Offense doesn’t matter though, these are the Chicago Bears. Built on defense. The defense limited the Falcons to 231 yards and only three points. ATL 3 – CHI 16

“To run out in Soldier Field and have the whole crowd cheer you on after missing 26 games or whatever I missed and going through all the rehab and then to have that fan support running out in the huddle in a close game against the Falcons and playoff run – it’s a very unique situation. It’s a memory I’ll take with me the rest of my life.” – CHI QB Rex Grossman


  • Divisional Round: CAR 29 – CHI 21

 “If you lined up my mama out there, I got to catch it over her too.” – CAR WR Steve Smith


2005 (1)
  • Brian Urlacher (ILB) – AP Defensive Player of the Year
  • Lovie Smith (HC) – NFL Head Coach of the Year
  • NFL Record – Fewest points allowed at home (61)

2010 Bears - The Year that Shall not be Named

Regular Season – Three Big Moments

Week 3, 2010 – GB vs CHI (GB -3)

The Bears made a statement as contenders for the first time since 2006. Cutler threw for 221 yards, Urlacher forced a key fumble, and Green Bay committed 18 penalties in this Monday night game.

Devin Hester returned a punt for a touchdown, running it back for 62 yards, giving the Bears a four point fourth quarter lead. After giving up a touchdown, the Bears tied it up at 17 with a Gould field goal with only four minutes remaining in the game. 

Then, Packers WR James Jones lost a late fumble on a big hit by Urlacher, recovered by Tim Jennings in the final minutes. On the ensuing drive, the Packers were called for pass interference on a deep throw to Earl Bennett, which set up a game winning Robbie Gould field goal in the final seconds. GB 17 – CHI 20. 

“My first few years it looked far too easy. Once or twice every three weeks. It’s been a long time but I’m happy with what happened today.” – CHI PR Devin Hester on his punt return TD

Week 4, 2010 – CHI @ NYG (NYG -3.5)

The 3-0 Bears went into the Meadowlands to take on the viscous New York Giants pass rush. Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck recorded three sacks each for the Giants, as they knocked Cutler out of the game with nine first half sacks. The Giants limited the Bears to 110 yards and three points in this bloodbath of a game that showed the Bears flaws all too closely. 

The Bears defense was unable to force any takeaways, and the offense was unable to move the ball. The Bears offense was limited to six first downs, and failed to convert on a single third down conversion, while adding three turnovers. The Giants sack total was only two short of the NFL record for a single game, as it was a miracle any Bears QB left the stadium alive. CHI 3 – NYG 17

“You get pressure like that, it’s tough to do anything.” – CHI HC Lovie Smith

Week 16, 2010 – NYJ vs CHI (CHI -1.5)

Jay Cutler had three touchdowns, Matt Forte ran for 113 yards, and the Bears were able to secure a victory over a playoff bound Jets team in a wild second half that included many points for both sides.

Entering the third quarter, the Bears trailed 24-23. The Jets attempted a fake punt on their first drive of the second half, and failed after Sanchez’s pass fell incomplete. Then the scoring broke out:

  • Bears TD – 40-yard pass to Johnny Knox
  • Devin Hester – 38-yard punt return, stopped short of the end zone
  • Bears TD – 25-yard pass to Devin Hester
  • Jets TD – 23-yard pass to Santonio Holmes
  • Bears TD 26-yard pass to Johnny Knox
  • Jets – 34-yard FG

NYJ 34 – CHI 38

“I understand you get a play or two, but we’re going in there trying to kick away from that guy. We tried to do that all day and he got his hands on it and that’s why you see how important it is to kick away from that kid. He is the best returner in the game.” -NYJ HC Rex Ryan on Devin Hester


  • Divisional Round: SEA 24 – CHI 35
  • Conference Championship: GB 24 – CHI 14

“He hurt his knee and he was out, all right? There’s nothing else for me to tell you on that.” – CHI HC Lovie Smith


2010 (1)
  • Julius Peppers (DE) – Defensive Player of the Month (Nov.)
  • Brian Urlacher (ILB) – Defensive Player of the Month (Dec.)


2005 v 2010.PNG

The 2005 Bears squeak by the 2010 Bears with a final score of 16-15. Time of possession and turnovers were equal in this bloodbath.  

Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

2001 Bears (#2 seed) vs 2012 Bears (#7 Seed)

2001 Bears - The Year of Keith Traylor Trucking for 67 Yards  

Regular Season – Three Big Moments

Week 7, 2001 – SF vs CHI (CHI -2)

The Bears came back from down 19 points against the 49ers. With only 33 seconds remaining, the Bears completed a two-point conversion to force overtime. The Bears went on to win on the first play of overtime thanks to a walk-off Mike Brown pick six. SF 31 – CHI 37.

“After 40 minutes, it was a blowout. After 60 (minutes), a thriller. And at the end, it was a classic.” – NFL Films

Week 8, 2001 – CLE vs CHI (CHI -4.5)

Just one week later, the Bears came back from down 14 at home against the Browns. Down by 14 with only 32 seconds remaining, Shane Matthews threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Marty Booker. Down by seven points with only 28 seconds left in the game, the Bears defied the odds as they recovered the onside kick. 

After two short yardage gains, and with only eight seconds remaining, Shane Matthews threw a prayer towards James Allen, who hauled in the touchdown pass. The Bears were going to overtime again. After a quick three and out by the Bears in OT, Miracle Mike Brown came through again. Brown got another OT interception, and ran it back 16 yards for the second walk-off touchdown in two weeks. CLE 21 – CHI 27.

“It’s just weird, real weird. If a book was written, I don’t think they’d believe it. It just came right to me and fell right into my hands; I don’t know what to say. A higher power, luck, destiny, whatever you call it.” – CHI S Mike Brown

Week 17, 2001 – JAX vs CHI (CHI -6)

The Bears faced off with the 6-9 Jacksonville Jaguars. In the third quarter, with the Bears leading 13-0, one of the greatest plays in NFL history occurred. On third-and-10, Jaguars QB Mark Brunell dropped back to pass. He looked downfield as his protection fell apart. Low and behold, the offensive line was opening the barn door for a screen pass. 

But there was one problem, and that problem weighed in at 6’2” and 337 lbs. Bears nose tackle Keith Traylor sniffed it out, and got a paw on Brunell’s screen pass attempt. After juggling the ball for what seemed like an eternity, the big man gathered himself and ran like the wind for 67 yards. JAX 13 – CHI 33.

“The pass is intercepted! Big Keith Traylor! LOOK AT HIM RUMBLE! FORTY – FIFTY – WATCH OUT THE EARTH IS SHAKING! HE’S AT THE 30 – HE’S AT THE 20 – HE WONT GIVE IT UP! OH MY!” – Dick Enberg

“I just follow the ball. When it landed, I said ‘Oh I got it. What should I do now?’ The ball landed in my hands and I just got as far as I could. I was looking for someone to pitch it to, but no one showed up. I did the best I could, I was trying to get there, but they got me.” – CHI DT Keith Traylor


  • Divisonal Round: PHI 33 – CHI 19.  

 “He (McNabb) buys a lot of time…If his receivers are not open initially, he can buy time with his legs and his athleticism.” – CHI HC Dick Jauron


2001 (1)
  • Brian Urlacher (ILB) – Football Digest Defensive Player of the Year
  • Marty Booker (WR) – Set CHI record for receptions (100), gaining 1,071 yards and 8 TD’s
  • Anthony Thomas (RB) – Offensive Rookie of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Month (Oct.)
  • Dick Jauron (HC) – NFL Coach of the Year
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“The best thing about this is that nobody gave us a chance outside this locker room but us. The best thing about it is proving everyone wrong – especially after last week everyone said we probably wouldn’t win another game.” – Brian Urlacher on playoff clinching victory over TB.

2012 Bears

See the previously discussed “Year of Lost Love(ie)” for full details.


2001 v 2012.PNG

The 2001 Bears narrowly beat out the 2012 Bears by a score of 17-16. Time of possession was equal on both sides, but the 2001 Bears actually lost the turnover margin by one and still came out victorious. 



3rd Round

3rd Rd.PNG

2005 Bears (#5 seed) vs 2006 Bears (#1 seed)

2005 Bears 

See the previously discussed “Year of the Neckbeard” for full details.

2006 Bears - The Year of Sexy Rexy

Regular Season – Two Big Moments

Week 1, 2006 – CHI @ GB (CHI -3.5)

The Bears shut out the Packers for the first time in Brett Favre’s career. Favre barely saw the field in this game, as the Bears won the time of possession handedly. Favre only threw five passes in the first half, as Chicago built a 16-0 lead. In the second half, they put out a heavier aerial approach, but threw two picks in the process as the Bears defense was foaming at the mouth. 

Grossman provided hope for the Bears QB position, as he went 18/26 with 262 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. What a way to kick off the season. CHI 26 - GB 0

“It’s hard to get a shutout in the NFL anytime. To get it on the road with Number 4 as the quarterback is definitely special.” – CHI HC Lovie Smith

Week 6, 2006 – CHI @ ARZ (CHI -11.5)

Buckle up for this Monday Night Football classic:

  • 1st Quarter – 7:12: Cardinals TD (CHI 0 – ARZ 7)
  • 1st Quarter – 2:41: Bears interception (Grossman)
  • 1st Quarter – 1:02: Cardinal TD (CHI 0 – ARZ 14)
  • 2nd Quarter – 13:14: Bears interception (Grossman)
  • 2nd Quarter – 4:25: Cardinals FG (CHI 0 – ARZ 17)
  • 2nd Quarter – 8:13: Bears lost fumble (Grossman)
  • 2nd Quarter – 2:02: Bears lost fumble (Grossman)
  • 2nd Quarter – 0:02: Cardinals FG (CHI 0 – ARZ 20)

What happened? This is not the same team we saw the first five weeks. The Arizona offense was walking all over the Bears, and Rex is a bum! Just gross, man.

  • 3rd Quarter – 7:22: Bears FG (CHI 3 – ARZ 20)
  • 3rd Quarter – 1:47: Cardinals FG (CHI 3 – ARZ 23)

3rd Quarter – 0:08: The Cardinals were backed up at their own 15-yard line. Matt Leinart dropped back to pass, but Bears DE Mark Anderson came in untouched and smashed Leinart’s blindside. The ball was loose! Who else but Mike Brown came in and scooped up the ball, running 15 yards for six with two seconds remaining in the third quarter. CHI 10 – ARZ 23

  • 4th Quarter – 9:25: Bears interception (Grossman)
  • 4th Quarter – 5:59: Bears interception (Grossman)

4th Quarter – 5:11: The Cardinals were just trying to burn up the clock, consistently handing off the Edgerrin James. But the defense was enraged. On the first offensive play for the Cardinals after Grossman’s fourth interception, they handed it to James up the middle. In came Brian Urlacher, on a mission. He wasn't even interested in tackling the stood up running back. He jumped into the pile, gripped his paw on the football, and ripped with all the power in his 6’4” 258 lb. frame. The ball was loose! Charles Tillman scooped and ran 40 yards untouched for the score. CHI 17 – ARZ 23

4th Quarter – 3:17: The next possession, the Cardinals were forced to punt. Hester fielded the punt, ran through a few arm tackles, and weaved around defenders and blockers before running into the endzone. Devin. Hester. You are ridiculous. CHI 24 – ARZ 23

4th Quarter – 0:53: The Cardinals lined up for a 41-yard field goal to retake the lead. They were dumbfounded as to how they blew their 20-point lead in the fourth quarter, despite the Bears offense contributing nothing. But, the Cardinals missed the field goal to the left, and I am convinced to this day that a Bears player got a finger on the ball. BEARS WIN! CHI 24 – ARZ 23

“Sometimes, when you’re a team of destiny, things like that happen.” – CHI HC Lovie Smith



  • Divisional Round: SEA 24 – CHI 27 (OT)
  • Conference Championship: NO 14 – CHI 39
  • Super Bowl: IND 29 – CHI 17


2006 (1)
  • NFC Champions (Halas Trophy)
  • Rex Grossman (QB) – NFC Offensive Player of the Month (Sept.)
  • Robbie Gould (PK) – NFC Special teams Player of the Month (Oct.)
  • Mark Anderson (DE) – NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month (Oct.)
  • Devin Hester (KR/PR) – Set CHI record for PR TD’s (3)
  • Robbie Gould (PK) – Set CHI record for FGM (32)
  • Lovie Smith – NFL Coach of the Year


2005 v 2006.PNG

The 2006 Bears beat out the 2005 Bears by a score of 19-13. The 2006 Bears handedly won in time of possession by almost five minutes. Turnovers were equal on both sides. 

Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

2001 Bears (#2 seed) vs 2018 Bears (#3 seed)

2001 Bears

See the previously discussed “Year of Keith Traylor Trucking 67-yards” for full details.

2018 Bears - The Year of Club Dub

Regular Season – Three Big Moments

Week 1, 2018 – CHI @ GB (GB -6.5)

The Bears were showing off new fan favorite, Khalil Mack. And he showed out. Mack had:

  • 27-yard interception return for a TD
  • 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR

The defense dominated for most of the game after Rodgers was injured in the first quarter. But, he returned in the second half, and proved to be explosive. Rodgers led the Packers back from down 20-10 with three second half touchdowns to win 23-24. The game winner came on a 75-yard slant route to Randall Cobb with only two minutes remaining. Even with the gut wrenching loss, this game signified that the Bears could compete with the best in the NFL, and instantly raised expectations for the Bears. CHI 23 – GB 24

“I prepared all offseason for the first game of the season and I wanted to make an impact. But you want to win these games. That’s the only thing on my mind. I hate losing.” – CHI EDGE Khalil Mack

Week 11, 2018 – MIN @ CHI (CHI -2.5)

Khalil Mack had a big game, with a sack and a fumble recovery. Eddie Jackson led the Bears defense to an orchestrated performance in the end zone after a game sealing pick six. The Bears all but sealed the division with their victory on this freezing December night at Soldier Field. 

The Bears defense simply dominated the Vikings, limiting their time of possession to just 25 minutes, even though the Bears offense had plenty of their own struggles. Cousins was under pressure all game. The Vikings run based offense couldn’t get moving, and the Bears defense dictated the tempo all night long. MIN 20 – CHI 25

"You’ve got to understand the situation, facing a division opponent, knowing we’re going to face them twice a year. We’ve got to make that jump and you saw it today. It’s knowing what’s at stake. Everybody showed up ready to play.” – CHI EDGE Khalil Mack

Week 15, 2018 – GB @ CHI (CHI -6)

How sweet it was to clinch the NFC North against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. The score was close, but the game never felt close. Everything was going right, and it ended with a Rodgers red zone interception by Eddie Jackson to seal the win. The Bears sacked Rodgers five times on the afternoon. The Bears were division champs for the first time since 2010, and it felt great. See you in Club Dub. GB 17 – CHI 24

“We know we want more.” – CHI HC Matt Nagy


  • Wild Card Round: PHI 16 – CHI 15


2018 (1).PNG
  • Mitchell Trubisky (QB) – Set CHI record for QB Rating (95.4), completion percentage (66.6%) and post-season game passing yards (301).
  • Khalil Mack (EDGE) – NFC Defensive Player of the Month (Sept.)
  • Eddie Jackson (S) – NFC Defensive Player of the Month (Nov.)
  • Matt Nagy (HC) – NFL Coach of the Year
  • Vic Fangio (DC) – Assistant Coach of the Year
  • Ryan Pace (GM) – Sporting News Executive of the Year
  • Defense ranked #17 since 1950 according to Football Outsiders


2001 v 2018.PNG

The 2018 Bears outlast the 2001 Bears by a score of 20-16. The 2018 Bears won in time of possession by almost four minutes, with turnover margin being equal on both sides. 

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 22: Corner back Kyle Fuller #23 of the Chicago Bears celebrates his interception in the fourth quarter with other teammates of the defense during an NFL game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on November 22, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. The Bears defeated the Lions 23-16. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

Photo: Dave Reginek/Getty Images



2006 Bears (#1 Seed) vs 2018 Bears (#3 seed)

2006 Bears 

See the previously discussed “Year of Sexy Rexy” for full details.

2018 Bears 

See the previously discussed “Year of Club Dub” for full details.


2006 v 2018.PNG

The 2018 Bears take down the 2006 Bears by a score of 22-17. The 2018 Bears won time of possession by two and a half minutes, and won the turnover margin by one. 

Chicago Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara (20) celebrates a touchdown with his teammates during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Photo: Nam Y. Huh/AP

Per the model, the 2018 Bears are the best Bears team of the 21st century. Do you agree with the model? Which Bears team do you think ranks supreme? Let me know @ButkusStats on Twitter or let our entire group know over @BearsOnTap.