Johnny Knox does his best to bail out the Bears
by Mark Potash firstname.lastname@example.org November 27, 2011 9:16PM
The Bears' Johnny Knox makes his point with a 29-yard TD catch in the second quarter, one of several big plays he made against the Raiders. | Paul Sakuma~AP
Updated: January 27, 2012 1:40AM
OAKLAND, Calif. — Johnny Knox is a struggling quarterback’s best friend.
While the Bears and Caleb Hanie muddled through Hanie’s first start, Knox kept coming up with big plays that gave them a chance to win late in the fourth quarter in the Bears’ 25-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
Knox helped turn the momentum in the Bears’ favor with a 29-yard touchdown that gave his team a 7-6 lead and a 56-yard kickoff return to the Raiders’ 35 late in the second quarter. And when it appeared the Bears were done, he gave them life with an 81-yard reception that set up Hanie’s nine-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kellen Davis that cut the lead to 25-20 with 2:11 to play.
He did the same for Jay Cutler when Cutler was struggling in his Bears debut with a 68-yard catch against the Packers in 2009. His 59-yard catch helped turn the tide against the Cowboys last year. His 67-yard touchdown did the same against he Vikings in Minneapolis. And he came up big for Hanie in the NFC Championship Game with a 32-yard catch that helped give the Bears an improbable chance in that one.
‘‘It really was a great job by Caleb — just reading his keys and putting the ball where it needed to be,’’ said Knox, who had a drop early in the game but finished with four receptions for 145 yards.
‘‘Caleb had a great week of practice. We all feel comfortable with him and he feels comfortable with us. We started slow but we got some things rolling. But we all took turns [making] plays we wish we could have back.’’
Knox said the quick-hitter against a blitz that he turned into a 29-yard touchdown was not a hot read.
‘‘That was my actual route,’’ Knox said. ‘‘It was zero coverage, all-out blitz. The middle of the field was open and Caleb stuck it to me.’’
Near-miss for Graham
Corey Graham, who does a little bit of everything as a special-teams ace, nearly came up with another big play when the Bears tried an onside kick after the Bears cut the Raiders’ lead to 25-20 with 2:11 to play. But he couldn’t come up with the loose ball in the middle of a huge scrum. Raiders tight end David Ausberry got it.
‘‘It was close,’’ Graham said. ‘‘There was a lot of fighting for the ball — a lot of pulling and grabbing. We had an opportunity to get it. I can’t say if either of us had it more than the other. But in the end he won the battle.’’
Graham also had an interception in the second quarter — his third interception in three games in place of injured nickel back D.J. Moore.
‘‘I don’t know — it’s good to get an interception, but we needed to get a victory,’’ Graham said. ‘‘It doesn’t mean too much.’’
Louis’ hustle saves a TD
Bears 6-3, 320-pound right tackle Lance Louis hustled downfield to tackle Kamerion Wimbley at the Bears’ 12-yard line and hold Wimbley to a 73-yard interception return instead of an 85-yard touchdown. Louis had to horse-collar Wimbley to make the play, but at that point it was all he could do. The Bears forced the Raiders to settle for Sebastian Janikowski’s 19-yard field goal for a 12-7 halftime lead.
‘‘I tried to grab him and take him down,’’ Louis said. ‘‘I just put my head down and went after him and I got him. The important thing is I got him down and we held them to three. I guess that’s good, right?’’