MORRISSEY: Bears deserve credit for weathering storm, finding way to win
BY RICK MORRISSEY Sports Columnist November 17, 2013 9:55PM
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Updated: January 17, 2014 2:46AM
At one point in the third quarter Sunday, powerful winds whipped hot-dog wrappers, garbage bags, rain ponchos, maybe a guy named Pancho and quite possibly Jay Cutler’s leg cast across Soldier Field.
And that’s when the weather was relatively good — relative to what had happened during a 1-hour, 53-minute weather delay earlier. That involved high winds and sideways rain after officials had ordered fans out of their seats and into the covered concourses and the Bears and the Ravens to their respective locker rooms.
It was the same weather system that spawned destructive tornadoes in central Illinois, so there was an awareness that things could be much, much worse and that, in the end, it was just a game.
Five hours, 16 minutes after the game began, after day had turned to evening, the Bears were the proud owners of a 23-20 overtime victory against the Ravens. And they should be proud, having come back from a 10-0 deficit during which time they looked overmatched.
With 4:51 left in the first quarter and the radar looking raw and enraged, officials stopped the game. Inside the Bears’ locker room, the players waited and waited and waited for the heavens to clear. My suspicion is that outside the locker room, the fans who chose to stay drank and drank and drank. The announcements about the status of the game, which had started at noon, were a bit of tease. Maybe it would resume at 1:30 p.m. Then 2 p.m. Finally and correctly, 2:25 p.m.
‘‘It was tough, especially when you go out there and you’ve played in the first half,’’ defensive lineman Corey Wootton said. ‘‘You’ve got to come in here and kind of get your mind [right] and keep preparing.’’
The sun shined before the restart, but that turned out to be a trick play. Things eventually got ugly again — or terribly wonderful if you like mud. The Soldier Field turf, which can look beat up on a good day, ended up looking like an oil spill, with about the same consistency.
‘‘There was definitely some backyard football going on,’’ guard Kyle Long said. ‘‘A lot of fun to play in those conditions and even better to get out of here with a win.’’
The conditions weren’t kicker Robbie Gould’s idea of fun. Footing was a major problem. As he lined up for the 38-yard field goal in overtime, one couldn’t help but think of someone about to slip on a banana peel. But there was no slapstick, only a game-winner.
‘‘I can’t wait to tell my kids and grandkids one day that I played through a tornado,’’ he said. ‘‘It doesn’t get any better than that.’’
Much of the credit for the Bears’ victory has to go to backup quarterback Josh McCown, who didn’t throw an interception and made one spectacular throw, a 43-yard completion to tight end Martellus Bennett in overtime, when it was needed most. After the game, McCown again took pains to say that he knows his place — behind Cutler, who sat out Sunday with a sprained ankle. Something tells me Chicago isn’t so sure anymore.
As crazy as the day was, it might even be crazier that the Bears are 6-4 and tied for first place in the NFC North with the Lions. Oh, and that the Packers lost again, too.
Crazy? David Bass picked off a pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. That was notable because you have no idea who Bass is and because a defensive lineman doesn’t often pick off Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and score.
Bass is a rookie who went to Division II Missouri Western State. There. Now you know.
The Ravens are used to interruptions. During the Super Bowl last season, they sat through a 34-minute delay when many of the lights went out at the Superdome. They won that game. They weren’t so fortunate this time.
It rained penalties on the Bears (13 for 111 yards), so it wasn’t as though they were being inhospitable to the Ravens. Cornerback Zack Bowman had five by himself (four assessed) and almost lost the game for the Bears with an ill-timed horse-collar penalty in the fourth quarter. Somehow, though, he didn’t.
It was just another crazy element to a crazy, crazy day.
‘‘I thought everyone came out and played pretty good . . . but there’s still stuff we’ve got to clean up a little bit,’’ Wootton said.
Mostly their uniforms.