In last week’s contest, few remember the game’s final play, one that Chicago Bears linebacker Blake Costanzo can put on his highlight reel.
With the Bears clinging to a one-point lead and the clock winding down to 16 seconds in the fourth quarter, Vikings tight end John Carlson grabbed a Robbie Gould squib kick on the Minnesota 29. That's when Costanzo saw his opportunity.
"What we've been taught kicked in immediately," Costanzo said after practice this week. "It’s all about takeaways and turnovers. I saw the Vikings tight end juggle the ball. It was raining and I knew the ball would be slipping a little. I saw my opportunity and I knocked it out of his hands and grabbed it tight in mine. Nobody was going to get it away from me."
As the referees watched the replay to confirm the fumble, Costanzo paced back and forth on the field.
"I knew he wasn't down and I knew it was Bears ball," Costanzo said. "Clearly I had my powers of positive thinking going on then. I just had to stand there and wait until the refs agreed with me."
Eventually they did agree. Jay Cutler then took a knee and the Bears sealed their 31-30 win.
"It was an important game for us," Costanzo said. "At this point in the season we could have been 0-2. Instead of that, we're 2-0. It makes such a difference in the outlook and confidence of the team. We've come from behind two weeks in a row by not panicking and getting our jobs done. That says a lot about the team's unity of purpose. There's no finger pointing, no showboating, just hard work day in and day out.”
Although Costanzo seemed to take his forced fumble as a matter of course, on the field it was another story. Once the play was ruled as a fumble, the special-teams ace threw the ball "about a hundred feet in the air.”
"Immediately after I did that, I kept thinking how I would have felt if the Vikes had grabbed the ball and gotten a field goal,” said Costanzo. “It would have been a very different locker room at Soldier Field after that game."
Costanzo is a journeyman player who is a key cog on all four of Chicago’s special teams units. He’s content to line up in relative obscurity and that's exactly the way he likes it.
"I know my role. The guys I play with know I give 100 percent. If I make a play and the fans have to look up my number the depth chart, that's fine. I've never come here on a game day expecting to look in the stands and see guys wearing my jersey.
"It’s so rare that anybody on special teams gets the chance to make a play that anyone would remember. Nobody knowingly wears a jersey with our name on it. I saw the ball, I knew I could get it and I had it in my hands. There was never a doubt that it would work. That's why the whole thing just so cool."
Tonight, heading into the hostile confines of Heinz Field to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on national television, Costanzo remains confident.
"Ideally, when you have a good game its something you can build on. I'll be out there looking for opportunities as usual. It'll be a challenge playing on national television in the featured night game, but that's what I'm here for. I'm looking forward to the game. It’s been a great season so far. I'd love to make a big play to keep this thing going."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 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.