Maddening as it is for fans, foes, these Bears are a resilient bunch
By RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org November 7, 2011 11:36PM
The secrecy surrounding Brian Urlacher’s left knee doesn’t bode well for his effectiveness on the field this season and beyond. The Bears could save his $7.5 million salary if they cut him before next Sunday. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: December 9, 2011 8:22AM
PHILADELPHIA — You had to be here to fully appreciate the sound. Not the booing, which Philadelphians perfected long ago, but the groans of a group of people who had talked themselves into believing the Eagles were finally on track.
The game was not a minute old when Matt Forte ran for 25 yards. He would go on to have one of the toughest days of his professional career, but at that moment, the run was what would be considered a “mood setter’’ in what would be a huge, 30-24 Bears victory.
The groans that accompanied Forte’s scamper and every other good thing the Bears did Monday night ranged from disgust to disbelief. If you could put those groans into words, they would have said, “These guys are coming into our house and doing what?’’
And if the cheers coming out of Chicago were honest with themselves, they would have said something like, “We hardly recognize these Bears ourselves.’’
There was so much promise, half a season’s worth, in the Bears’ first drive that it wasn’t so much a statement as a roar. They went 79 yards on 12 plays to open the game. Jay Cutler’s five-yard touchdown pass to Matt Spaeth made it 7-0.
“The crowd got real quiet after we did that,’’ Forte said.
A blip, those famously patient Eagles fans must have been thinking. A one-time deal, they must have figured.
That’s not how the Bears saw it, and they would impose their vision on an unsuspecting populace. The Bears would jump to a 10-0 lead, then give it all back, thanks in part to Forte, whose fumble of a Cutler pass led to Brian Rolle’s recovery and 22-yard touchdown run.
But there is a resiliency to these Bears, who raised their record 5-3. Where it comes from, I don’t know. They do the opposite of whatever it is you expect of them. They make things happen. Things happen to them. They win when everybody and everybody’s brother says they shouldn’t.
Surely those Eagles fans of the optimistic ilk were thinking the momentum had shifted for good, that the game was over and that everyone should drive home safely.
On a Bears punt toward the end of the first half, Zack Bowman forced a DeSean Jackson fumble, which was recovered by the Bears’ Sam Hurd at the Philadelphia 9.
The Bears took over, took advantage of a very liberal interpretation of the roughing-the-passer rule and took a 17-10 lead on Marion Barber’s two-yard touchdown run.
The Bears were rested after a bye week, and they were motivated. It couldn’t have taken much for coach Lovie Smith to get their attention. They couldn’t afford to lose many more NFC games.
Even when the Eagles clawed back to a 17-17 tie on a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter, there wasn’t the sense that something had turned for the worse for the Bears. They were ready for this. This wasn’t going to turn into a blowout.
That said, Forte picked a very bad time to struggle. His fumble in the third quarter led to another Eagles’ touchdown, this one to give Philadelphia a 24-17 lead.
He spent last week on something of a media tour, telling outlet after outlet about his unhappiness with his contract situation. Is that why he had an up-and-down night of 133 yards and two fumbles? Impossible to say, but it looked awful under the glare of the prime-time lights.
So the question was simple: How would he react, and how would the Bears react?
This is when teams figure out who and what they are. The Bears found themselves on their own 6-yard line after that score, with the crowd at Lincoln Financial Field in full throat. Roy Williams dropped a Cutler bomb. Barber ran for 17 yards to give the Bears running room. Where was Forte? On the sidelines, for a while. Not even a team’s best offensive player is safe from being yanked if he has trouble holding on to the ball.
A 28-yard reception by Earl Bennett moved the Bears past midfield. Williams caught a pass over the middle. And in the end, a 38-yard field goal by Robbie Gould cut the lead to 24-20.
Cutler hit Bennett with a perfect pass on a fade back to give the Bears a 27-24 lead early in the fourth. That’s called bouncing back. That’s called resiliency.
The defense stopped Michael Vick & Co. on fourth down late in the quarter, and that was it.
“It’s big,’’ linebacker Lance Briggs said afterward. “Every game is big. Right now, we’re on a three-game winning streak. We need to keep stacking wins. We need to beat Detroit coming up this weekend.’’
That’s for later. For now, there’s the sweet sound of a stunned city. Those earlier groans? They gave way to that old Philly favorite, booing.