The combined efforts of WR Dez White, kicker Paul Edinger, WR Marty Booker, and quarterbacks Chris Chandler and Jim Miller changed the Bear's fortunes and put a brief smile on the faces of fans with the team's first win since Sept. 15.
Much to his surprise, Edinger was carried off of the field after his game-winning kick.
"I was somewhat concerned about the wind," Edinger said. "It was blowing pretty hard out there and it was coming right at us from the Detroit end zone."
Thanks to a desperate final series of pass completions from Miller to White, RB Leon Johnson, and Marty Booker, Edinger got what he was looking for: a ball within a reasonable distance of the uprights.
"There wasn't any other way that we were going to be able to do it," said quarterback Jim Miller, who came into the game with five minutes left in the third quarter after Chandler suffered an ankle injury." I can't tell you just how good this feels, to finally get a win. We just weren't prepared to go down to Detroit today."
Chandler had mixed results early in the game with a halftime total of 111 passing yards on 14 attempts and 10 completions. Marty Booker had 3 catches for 73 yards at the half, including a three yard-score that gave the Bears a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Detroit's Jason Hanson answered with a 22-yard field goal with 5:46 to go in the half.
With the Bears running game seemingly stymied by the Detroit defense, Chandler struggled to gain yards through the air.
As the second half began, Joey Harrington settled into a groove, finding his passing rhythm. A strong Detroit drive culminated in a one-yard pass to Germane Crowell for a score to give Detroit the lead with five minutes left in the third quarter. Lions 10, Chicago 7.
James Stewart then broke three tackle on his way to a 23-yard touchdown run, brining the score to Lions 17,Chicago 7.
The Bears were unable to convert a first down for much of the fourth quarter. The offense got the ball with just over six minutes left in the game. Miller slipped, as he dropped back for a third down pass, but was able to get back up and throw a 23-yard completion to Dez White in the end zone. Score: Detroit 17,Chicago 14.
"Actually, the fact that Miller slipped sort of helped me to make the play," White said. "I had my route set up at the wrong angle. I heard the crowd noise when Jimmy went down and I happened to turn slightly to the right. There was the ball, coming right at me. I grabbed it and went into the end zone."
With time in the game running out, and Miller clearly in pain and struggling to make plays, the game's outcome seemed stacked in Detroit's favor. However, somehow Miller converted a 4th and 20 situation after falling to the ground. The quarterback had enough composure to get back up and complete a 33-yard pass to White, which enabled kicker Paul Edinger to attempt a 22-yard field goal, tying the game 17-17 at the end of regulation.
"It was one of those times when you know that you really have to step up and play," Miller said. "My arm wasn't in great shape but at that point, you have to keep going. I hadn't really thrown much of anything in practice for over two weeks. All I could do was to hope for the best and give it my best shot."
A surprising decision by Detroit's coach Marty Mornhinweg to let the Bears receive in overtime after the Lions had won the coin toss, led to a 40-yard clutch field goal by Edinger. Bears win, 20-17.
"I told Jim to get it as close to the Lions 27 as he could," Edinger said. "The wind was strong and I just didn't feel confident about hitting anything much further out than that. In retrospect think that's why the Lions elected to kick off in overtime, They were after a field goal and they wanted to be sure that the wind would be at their backs. Luckily for us, the wind wasn't as much of a factor as it could have been."
Coach Dick Jauron expressed relief that the Bears hadn't set a new team record for consecutive losses.
"Nobody wants to see their name in the record books next to a statistic like that," Jauron said. "This team has tried hard all year. They've been so close and things just didn't go our way. Today it felt as if the tide was beginning to turn. We made some mistakes but we were able to come back. That hasn't happened for us in quite a while."