Bears prove magic has a shelf life

Two games ago the knack the Bears showed in 2001 for winning close games ended, and in a 33-27 loss to the Buffalo Bills the Bears' magical touch for taking overtime games vanished with a 26-yard game-ending touchdown pass from Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe to running back Travis Henry.

``We pride ourselves on being in close games and finding a way to win,'' Bears quarterback Jim Miller said.

Instead, it was Bledsoe who found a way to beat the Bears' defense repeatedly all day long, the final time with a 32-yard completions to Eric Moulds along the sidelines and the next play on the run to Henry, who caught it near the line of scrimmage and went 20 yards untouched.

``We get the (overtime) coin toss, we don't move the ball and they make a big play and that's the game -- it's disappointing,'' Bears coach Dick Jauron said.

Everything had been set up for yet another unlikely Bears comeback win in 2001 vintage style, from James ``Big Cat`` Williams blocking a 39-yard Mike Hollis field goal at the end of regulation to an ability to stay close while their defense was dominated by Bledsoe to the tune of 328 passing yards on 28-of-36. They even had the big defensive score -- Mike Brown's 62-yard game-tying touchdown run with a first-quarter lateral from Rosevelt Colvin after linebacker Warrick Holdman had forced a Henry fumble.

Rather than the repeat storybook win, the Bears came away with a 2-2 record, their first losing streak since 2000, yet another injury to a defensive starter with Holdman's sprained right knee, which ended his season, and a lot of self condemnation.

``We didn't do anything real well today, anything with any consistency,'' Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. ``When that happens you're going to get beat. And we did. No excuses.''

Doubt is even creeping in with the team heading for a Monday night NFC North first-place showdown next week at Memorial Stadium against the Green Bay Packers.

For one, offensive coordinator John Shoop benched left tackle Bernard Robertson in favor of Marc Colombo during the game. Also, Blache came away threatening to dump unproductive players -- although there aren't many options with five starters now hurt.

Bledsoe caused most of their misery. The player the Bears passed on in the trade market last season came back to pass on them, becoming the first quarterback to throw for four touchdowns against them since Randall Cunningham did it for Minnesota in 1998.

He found Peerless Price for a 2-yard touchdown to end a 75-yard, game-opening drive, Moulds for a 4-yard TD pass to end a 76-yard eight-play drive and give the Bills a 17-7 lead, then put them ahead 27-20 in the fourth quarter with 8:55 to play with a 1-yard, play-action pass to tight end Dave Moore. His fourth TD pass came on the overtime pass to Henry.

``I have said it often and I will continue to say it,'' Bledsoe said. ``When my receivers are one on one in pass coverage, I feel like they are going to win every time. And today they did.

``I gave Eric Moulds a couple chances on deep balls in situations when you don't normally throw a deep ball; third and one and some of those third downs, but I believe in him and Peerless enough to go ahead and throw the ball down the field.''

He did on the 26-yard pass in overtime to Moulds which placed the Bills in scoring position, one play before he bought time by rolling right and throwing to Henry.

``It's frustrating, but there was nothing I could do about it,'' said Bears cornerback Todd McMillon, who had Moulds along the sidelines on his 26-yard catch but couldn't prevent the play. ``They do everything on timing in their passing attack. He made a good catch.

``I got a hand on the ball and he still made the grab. What else could I do?``

The passing game also got Buffalo into position for Hollis' 48-yard field goal and a 10-7 lead in the second quarter and his 49-yard field goal that gave the Bills a 20-14 third-quarter lead.

Even with a ground game that ran for only 52 yards on 26 carries against a 28th-ranked run defense giving up 149 rushing yards a game; the Bears kept battling back. They cut a 17-7 deficit to 17-14 on Miller's 5-yard TD pass to David Terrell 28 seconds before halftime and then tied the score 20-20 in the third quarter with Paul Edinger field goals of 46 and 24 yards.

Tight end John Davis' nifty move on a third-and-goal to get in for a 3-yard TD pass with 2:46 left in regulation gave the Bears points needed for the overtime, and Williams' blocked field goal prevented the Bills from winning in regulation. ``We got a nice little push up in the line and we got a fingertip on it,'' Williams said.

The Bears thought they had gained the lead in the fourth quarter when David Terrell hauled in a 7-yard TD catch in front of Pierson Prioleau before Edinger's tying field goal, but replay ruled him out of bounds.

``I thought he (Prioleau) hit my leg when I straightened it up to try and drag my foot,'' said Terrell, arguing in favor of a TD because he'd been forced out of bounds.

In the end, it was Henry and not the Bears who showed the most resiliency. His lost fumble that gave Brown the first-quarter touchdown was his fourth of the short season. But in overtime Henry drifted to an open area for the winning catch, while Bledsoe rolled away from a Bears blitz -- something the Bills' QB had done all day.

``Obviously, we know the situation that he needs to hold on to the football, but he is a guy that we all believe in and we are all counting on,'' Bledsoe said.

The Bears will now seek out their own shattered confidence after getting outgained 410 yards to 240 by a team that was 3-13 last year.

``We're not paying attention to detail,'' said safety Mike Brown. Colvin added, ``That is the difference between us not winning this year and last year. We are not taking care of the details. We aren't winning those close ballgames by two, three, four points.''

Jauron agreed, but added, ``I don't have a reason for it. I don't have that except for the fact it's not getting done and the other guys are pretty good.''

On this day, that applied to Bledsoe in particular.

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