Back and forth, they bickered loudly.
A man in a No. 54 Brian Urlacher jersey leaned over the railing behind the Bears sideline to insult players about their wives, girlfriends and, most of all, their play.
Mike Brown gave it right back, cursing him as at least one Bear waved to dare the guy to come onto the field.
By the time the Indianapolis Colts had finished humbling the Bears 41-10 Sunday, Soldier Field security personnel had escorted the man from his seat.
"If he's got such a problem with us out there playing, he ought to get out there and play and see how well he can do," linebacker Lance Briggs sniped.
There were not enough boos to drown out the testy exchange because thousands of other fed-up fans already had left Soldier Field of their own volition. As time expired on the first loss in four weeks for the Bears (4-6), the stadium sat nearly two-thirds empty.
In that setting, the only thing more striking than the sight of a pro athlete and a fan verbally sparring given Friday's NBA melee in Detroit might have been Briggs' eventual acknowledgment that he believed the Bears deserved the heckler's harangue.
"We got beat up, and it got the best of the fan so he wanted to take it out on us," Briggs said. "It's kind of understandable."
Briggs made news before the game by guaranteeing a victory over the Colts. But afterward he could not be sure what hit him and the defense.
His name was Edgerrin James. In the third-best day ever by a running back against the Bears, James spun, stomped and sliced through a soft Bears run defense for 204 yards on 23 carries.
The domination might have been worse had Colts coach Tony Dungy not spared deeper embarrassment for his friend, Bears coach Lovie Smith, by resting James and quarterback Peyton Manning the entire fourth quarter.
Examining the Bears' defense at the line before every snap like a doctor scanning an X-ray, Manning completed 17 of 28 passes for 211 yards and four TDs. But more than one Bears defensive player credited Manning for the Colts' running game clicking as effectively as the passing.
"He had our defense figured out and knew everywhere we were going to be, and he was changing the directions of plays," defensive end Michael Haynes said. "[But] you don't go up against the best offense in football very often."
And it's a good thing for the Bears, no match for either Manning's brain or James' brawn.
"We just got whipped," linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer said. "This one hurts your pride."
Not to mention it bruised a few egos, such as rookie defensive tackle Tommie Harris'. He had boasted that the Bears had the best defensive line in the NFL and that the Colts' offense did not impress him.
The only thing that left a deeper impression than the Indy offense might have been James' cleat marks on the backs of Bears defensive linemen as he consistently ran over them.
"Sometimes [people] have bad days at work," Harris said. "We had a bad day at work."
It took a turn for the worse when Briggs let a sure interception and likely touchdown slip through his fingertips with 6 minutes 12 seconds left in the first quarter.
Colts 41, Bears 10