Telander: Squirrels and streakers, oh my, in old London town
BY RICK TELANDER email@example.com October 23, 2011 10:14PM
English fans get into the spirit of things outside of Wembley Stadium before Sunday’s game in London. | David J. Phillip~AP
Updated: November 25, 2011 8:19AM
LONDON — Bottom line: the Bears are undefeated in London.
Undefeated in Wembley Stadium.
Undefeated in the United Kingdom, undefeated in BST (British Summer Time).
They’re undefeated when one of the Queen’s rodents prowls the red zone, when Matt Forte is tackled for a safety, when a drunken (I’m guessing here, though with a high level of confidence) fan peels off his shirt and rumbles around the playing field just before a fourth-quarter kickoff, high-fiving a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and then the Bears’ astounded Corey Graham.
Back in the 1986 preseason, the Bears beat the Dallas Cowboys here 17-6, with lots of weirdness. And the modern-day Bears beat the Buccaneers here Sunday night, 24-18, with just enough weirdness to distract from but not overwhelm the final result.
So why wouldn’t the Bears gladly travel to London, anytime, until the streak runs out?
“If you win, it’s great,’’ agreed Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.
B-Url had a fine game, by the way, as did fellow linebacker Lance Briggs. Between them they finished with 11 tackles, two interceptions (one each), four passes broken up (two each), and a quarterback hurry (Briggs).
“This wasn’t too bad,’’ continued Urlacher. “About a seven-hour flight. Time change not too bad. This was fun.’’
When pressed by a British media member on whether the player would then eagerly agree to more England games, Urlacher chuckled his bullet-headed chuckle. Maybe the dude wasn’t hip to the NFL power structure.
“Wherever they say play the game, we do it. We have no say. We just play where they tell us to play, and put a smile on our face while we’re doing it.’’
Indeed, at one point, the Bears looked to make a laugher of this contest. With the Bears up 21-5 in the third quarter, Briggs intercepted Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman’s underthrown pass and returned it to within inches of the “home-team’’ Bucs’ goal line.
If they could score a touchdown here, the Bears would have a Piccadilly Circus on their hands. But a penalty on the play kept the Bears far from the end zone, and then things got sticky late in the game, what with the Buccaneers having the ball with 37 seconds left at the Bears’ 39 and needing only a TD and an extra point to win.
Thanks for the last-second interception, D.J. Moore, old bloke!
A win is a win, wherever, however it arrives. And the Bears are now 4-3 and winners of three of their last four games.
“Same record we had last year,’’ head coach Lovie Smith said. “But our arrow is going up. I feel real good about our ball club.’’
There were other things to feel good about.
Beautiful weather, a stadium as modern as any in the U.S., fans wearing a potpourri of NFL jerseys ranging from Jay Cutler to Franco Harris to Art Monk.
Before the game I chatted with a fellow wearing a tricked-out Oakland Raiders NFL All-Star jersey with “ASOMUGHA’’ on the back.
“I’ve been to the NFL games here the last five years,’’ said Stuart Mansfield, 40, from London. He was with his wife, Angie, 39, who was wearing a blue Colts Peyton Manning jersey. She smiled weakly when hubby explained how he had the NFL double-header package on Sky Sports TV. And if he didn’t like either game, he could “push the red button and go to ‘Red Zone’ and watch the scoring for all the games.’’
So why the unpronouncable cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha jersey?
“He was with the Raiders before he got traded to the Eagles,’’ Stuart said.
“And I love the Raiders.’’
The Raiders. He saw my expression.
“Yes, I’m a bit of a nut case,’’ he said.
So was the squirrel that ran onto the field in the first quarter, zipping as far as the Bears 40-yard line, no doubt trying to remember where he buried his winter’s stash a while back.
And how about that hefty fan who stripped off his shirt and ran all over the gridiron, giddy with demented joy, clearly wondering, like the rest of us, where in the hell security was.
“That was exciting,’’ admitted game savior Moore, who was watching from the sideline. “The guys facing him we’re kind of slow — most times you see it on TV and the guys are real good at tackling, and these guys, they were bad’’
Did Moore consider helping out?
“No!’’ said the little cornerback. “I thought he was going to take his pants off and everything.’’
You didn’t see any of this impropriety, beloved reader. The NFL, moral and pure, made sure.
But maybe you did see the weirdest thing of all. Maybe of ever.
Buccaneers safety Tanard Jackson, 6-0, 200, intercepted a Jay Cutler pass in the first quarter and ran it back 43 yards before ducking out of bounds at the Bears 12 so he could avoid getting hit by ... Cutler!
This scribe has never in all his football days seen such, hmmm, shall we call it diaper doo-doo?
As noted before, it doesn’t matter where or how you win games.
In truth, the Bears may be better than we think.
For sure, they’re bloody British bullies.