Bears Gain Champs Respect, But Lose Opener

The Bears went into Baltimore to spoil the Ravens Super Bowl celebration and their opening drive caught Baltimore's attention. Chicago shocked the home team with a 14-play drive, which resulted in a Paul Edinger 20-yard field goal giving the Bears a 3-0 lead.

However the 74-yard scoring drive, which consumed 8:33 off the game clock, ended in disappointment. Despite the Bears early lead the team failed to capitalize on a first goal situation from the five-yard line. James Allen got the ball rushed to the one yard line, but could not find the end zone on second or third down carries for no gain.

"We shot ourselves in the foot," Matthews said. They're a tremendous football team. We had our chances. We just didn't put it in the end zone when we should have."

James Allen echoed Matthews' statement. "If they give it to me three times in a row I expect to get in," he said. Allen finished the day with 43 yards rushing on 21 carries.

Shane Matthews was sharp on the opening drive completing all six of his passes for 53 yards. Marcus Robinson did not start the game but was in on the Bears second play from scrimmage. He played throughout the game without a catch. However, his presence seemed to settle the young receiving core early.

The Ravens answered Chicago's challenge when Elvis Grbac completed a 35-yard pass to Qadry Ismail, who was tightly defended by R.W. McQuarters. The Bears defense responded and forced a 46-yard field goal attempt by Matt Stover, which hit the right upright preserving Chicago's lead.

The Bears dominated the time of possession in the first half keeping the ball for a total of 21:36. Chicago was on the move again to start the second quarter. The team had first downs in reaching the Baltimore ten on a roughing the passer penalty on DE Michael McCrary. The following play Olin Kreutz retaliated and was called for a personal foul pushing the Bears back to the 25. Edinger then missed a 43-yard filed goal wide left.

"It's really discouraging to look back afterwards," Jauron said talking about the Kreutz penalty."

The Bears coaching staff knew any mistakes would be magnified against a team of the Ravens caliber.

"This team is the type of team when you have a chance you better take advantage of it," offensive coordinator John Shoop. "We had two chances down there tight in the red zone and we got a field goal and missed a field goal. Those come back to get you when you play someone this good."

The Bears looked like they would go into the half with the lead, but with 1:06 on the game clock Grbac took advantage to prevent the defense completing 5/6 passes. The Raven quarterback was accurate throughout the game due in part to a lack of Bears pass rush. "We know we could stop the run. We just wanted to get more pressure and we weren't able to do that," said Brian Urlacher. "We left our corners out there for 5 or 6 seconds. Their receivers are good enough to get open with that much time."

A mistake by reserve cornerback Mike Green compounded the problem positioning the Ravens inside the Bears 20 with :02 left in the quarter. Green hit tight end Todd Heap out of bounds and was called for a 15-yard personal foul.

Stover kicked a 37-yard field goal on the final play of the half tying the contest at 3-3.

The Bears quickly regained the momentum in the second when Ted Washington forced a Terry Allen fumble and Bryan Robinson recovered at midfield. Two plays later a Matthews pass was intercepted by middle linebacker Ray Lewis, but the play was brought back because of two Baltimore penalties. Chicago got the ball back on the 36. The Bears went ahead 6-3 on a 46-yard field goal by Edinger with 9:30 left in the third quarter.

The Ravens defense finally forced the Bears into a three and out midway into the third quarter. Baltimore took over at their 13 and went the length of the field on 11 plays. On second-and-four from the Ravens' 19, Heap broke away from Warrick Holdman and Tony Parrish and picked up 24 yards on a play that should have been a short gain.

"That's what got them going," defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. "We were trying to make them one-dimensional and not let them run on us. Then we give them a big play on a missed tackle; we let them out of the hole. We gave them mouth to mouth. We had our opportunities and we let it slip away."

The Ravens mixed the run and pass to move the ball downfield. Baltimore took a 10-6 lead on Grbac's six-yard touchdown pass to uncovered fullback Sam Gash. The drive left the Bears defense on the field for 5:27, but it didn't tire their effort.

As Chicago's offense was forced into a second straight three and out the Ravens looked like they had taken control of the game. However, on fourth down and inches from the Bear 31 Phillip Daniels stopped FB Obafemi Ayanbadejo on 4th and inches. The following Baltimore drive started on their 47. The defense came up big again this time DT Robert Newkirk forced a Jermaine Lewis fumble, which was recovered by Jerry Azumah at the Chicago 40.

With just under seven minutes left in the game the Bears took possession with a chance to take the lead, but the opportunity was short lived. On 3rd and 7 Matthews, who had been almost intercepted on several occasions during the game, tried to go over the middle to Marty Booker the pass was deflected and picked off by Ray Lewis. He returned it to the Chicago 34 with 5:24 left to play.

"Book got open, but I saw the safety breaking up pretty quick on him," Matthews said. "I tried to throw a line drive in there. If I had put a little more air under it he probably would have caught it. I think (Jamie) Sharper or one of those guys got a hand on it and it was tipped and any ball that gets tipped against these guys it's going to get picked off."

The Bears failed to stop the Ravens on a 3rd and two from the Chicago 26, as Grbac completed a 25-yard pass to Paul Johnson, who was covered by Walt Harris. The pass gave the Ravens first and goal at the 1. Baltimore converted two plays later on Terry Allen's 1-yard TD run with 2:36 left, which put the Ravens ahead 17-6.

"It's a shame," Matthews said. "We put a lot of hard work into this game. We've got a good football team. We don't care what anybody says. We had a chance to beat the world champions today and we didn't get it done."

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