Bears escape with another one

ATLANTA _ The Bears improved to 2-0 in the NFC North and also in narrow escapes with a 14-13 victory over the <!--Default NodeId For Atlanta is 120,2003--><A HREF=>Atlanta</A> Falcons after Falcons kicker <!--Default NodeId For Jay Feely is 798548,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:798548]>Jay Feely</A> missed a 46-yard field goal with 1:01 left in the game.

"I don't think we played particularly well, the whole team to be quite honest with you," Bears quarterback Jim Miller said. "But we came away with a win."

Unlike in the opener, the Bears' defense did the bulk of the rescue work in this game by forcing two of Atlanta's lost third-quarter fumbles and containing Falcons quarterback Michael Vick all game long.

"We expect it from our defense and they expect it from themselves," Jauron said. "They played tough."

What the defense doesn't expect is to have to contain the Falcons without injured defensive tackle Ted Washington, who left in the first half with a sprained left ankle. And they didn't expect to need big plays to overcome officials' calls questionable enough that they had even the normally diplomatic Jauron complaining afterward.

"Certainly we were not real happy with them on the sidelines," Jauron said.

A special teams play -- Larry Whigham's forced fumble and Rabih Abdullah's recovery at Atlanta's 16 with 10:22 left in the third quarter set up the Bears' offense for the winning points on Jim Miller's third-and-eight, 14-yard touchdown pass to David Terrell. That made the score 14-10.

A 67-yard kickoff return put Atlanta in range for a 27-yard Feely field goal on the next possession to make it 14-13. Then the Bears' defense withstood two critical roughing-the-passer penalties and won a replay appeal on a Vick playground style pass play before dodging the final bullet on Feely's missed kick.

"To come in and fly around and fight like they did against a football team that scored the points they did last week, and has all the offensive firepower they did last week and had all the offensive firepower that football team did and had the crowd behind them and everything going for them was tremendous," defensive coordinator Greg Blache said of his group.

Following a Rosevelt Colvin sack, Vick appeared to have converted on second-and-20 with a 42-yard pass on a broken play to Willie Jackson at the Bears' 22 after safety Mike Brown tipped the ball. That put Atlanta in field goal range with five minutes to play, but referee Jeff Triplette looked at replay and ruled the ball had been trapped. "I couldn't tell," Brown said of the catch. " I jumped about four inches off the ground. I touched the ball. I should have caught it."

The Falcons had to punt after Brian Urlacher's second sack but got possession for a game-winning drive with 2:11 to play. Vick's 17-yard scramble got Atlanta into Bears' territory and his 9-yard pass to Aaron Crumpler put them in field goal range. But a third-and-one Vick sneak that would likely have bought Atlanta a closer field goal try failed after tackles by Urlacher and Bryan Robinson. Then the kick failed.

"What I told the team after the game was this is the way the game is played," Jauron said. "Some weeks you've got to score 27. Some weeks you score 14 and you get by.

"We want to hit on all cylinders. We don't feel like we're doing that yet, but we'll keep working at it."

The Bears' defense showed it had improved after giving up 23 points to Minnesota in Week 1.

A week after Vick had run for 72 yards and thrown for 209 on Green Bay, he gained just 56 yards on 10 scrambles and passed for 166 yards.

"He's a great athlete," Urlacher said. "We knew he was going to get some yards on us throwing and running the ball. It was a matter of keeping him in the pocket for the most part."

That didn't appear like it would be enough when the Falcons' 3-4 defense had considerably better success against the Bears' offense than against Green Bay.

"Overall, we didn't execute the way we needed to execute," said Miller, who completed 12-of-24 for 143 yards with an interception. "I didn't think we had any first downs in the first half, to be honest with you. We've got to run more than 11 plays in a half, that's for sure. That's not enough."

They actually had five first-half first downs -- none until 5:32 remained in the first half -- and had the ball only for 11:30 of the first two quarters.

After running only 15 first-half plays, the Bears' offense finally countered a Warrick Dunn 10-yard second-quarter touchdown pass from Vick with an 86-yard TD march that included a rare 37-yard pass to the tight end.

Miller found John Davis 12 yards downfield and Fred Baxter's block freed him for a big gain that set up Anthony Thomas' 3-yard, third-down TD run with 1:10 left in the half.

"I just wanted to get it over the linebacker so it didn't get picked off and John made a great catch," Miller said. "They were double-teaming Marty (Booker), so I had to come off that."

They went into the locker room trailing 10-7 after Bryan Knight's roughing-the-passer penalty put Atlanta into position for Feely's 37-yard field goal, but easily could have been ahead themselves as wide receiver Dez White had dropped two long passes on plays that could have gone for touchdowns.

"We're almost there," Miller said. "But almost there isn't good enough. We've got to do it right all the time.

"I always am not going to make the perfect throw and those guys will make plays. But sometimes I'll make the good throw and they've got to make the catch."

Miller also accepted blame because Vick's TD pass to Dunn came following Fred Weary's interception on a slant patter and return to the Bears' 38.

"I can't force it in there," Miller said.

The running game's failure to convert two key third-and-ones and a 31-carry, 106-yard rushing effort added to the offense's frustration.

"There were a lot of what-ifs or if-onlys in this game," offensive coordinator John Shoop said. "When you can win a game where you come back and say `what if we caught these TDs, what if we converted these third-and-shorts,' you can turn that into a positive."

The biggest what-if belonged to Feely, though. "I probably tried to hit it too hard and just pulled it a little bit," he said of the game-deciding kick.

The Bears could only breathe a sigh of relief at being 2-0.

"That's not how we want it," linebacker Warrick Holdman said. "We want to be a dominant team."

Until then, at least they are one which can elude defeat.

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