Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould (9) hits a 53-yard field goal against the Oakland Raiders during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Updated: January 27, 2012 1:40AM
OAKLAND, Calif. — It’s not often argued that the Bears lost the special-teams battle, but there was no dispute after their 25-20 loss Sunday, not even from within their locker room.
The Raiders owned the third phase.
“They beat us on special teams,” returner Devin Hester said. “They overpowered us. There’s no other way to put it than that.”
The Bears had their moments. Robbie Gould kicked 50- and 53-yard field goals in the fourth quarter to keep the game close. His onside kick in the final minutes was nearly recovered by his teammates. Johnny Knox had a 56-yard kickoff return to set up one of three Caleb Hanie interceptions. Adam Podlesh boomed a 52-yard punt.
“He squibbed it,” Knox said of his return. “Sometimes when they squib it like that, it works to our advantage. They were overplaying, so we wanted to get a counter on them, so that was a designed play. We got what we wanted.”
But what the Bears accomplished did not compare to what the Raiders did. Janikowski kicked field goals of 40, 47, 42, 19, 37 and 44 yards to break a franchise record for most field goals in a game.
“Only [two] of those [were] under 40 yards,” Gould said. “That was probably the most impressive kicking performance I’ve ever seen.”
Shane Lechler broke a franchise record with an 80-yard punt that sent Hester helplessly trotting into the end zone at a time when the Bears desperately needed a big return. Lechler’s final punt, a 50-yarder, rolled out of bounds at the Bears’ 4, forcing Hanie to march the team 96 yards in the final 1:01 for a potential game-winning touchdown.
“He was up tight on me,” Lechler said of Hester when asked about his 80-yarder. “We had angle punt left called, and that’s what we tried to do all night. I didn’t hit the ball quite like I wanted to all night. It worked out, but it didn’t go where I wanted it to. I caught Devin up close and I thought, ‘This is going to be all or nothing right here.’ And I caught it good.”
The Bears needed to dominate the field-position battle to give Hanie a chance of earning a win in his first career start. That wasn’t the case. Holding penalties on Zack Bowman and Craig Steltz nullified two returns. The Bears’ average drive start was their 20-yard line; the Raiders’ was their 40.
“We have to do a better job of helping our offense and not putting them in a hole,” Steltz said. “We have to change the field position and be that spark.”
The Bears had one last chance to make an impact with their special teams when they lined up for an onside kick with 2:11 left. Gould executed a high chopper to the right side, but the Raiders had called timeout, and Gould was forced to rekick. Instead of trying something different, he executed a similar kick. Charles Tillman blasted a Raiders player while trying to knock the ball loose, but Oakland recovered.
“That’s our scheme,” Gould said. “That’s what we do. We’ve got nothing else. Charles did a great job of hitting the guy. Unfortunately, they came up with it.”
Special-teams standout Sam Hurd said he knew the Raiders were solid on special teams, but he didn’t know how solid.
“Kudos to them,” Tillman said.