Rookies step to forefront for Bears

Youth must be served, it's often been said and written. <P> The Bears and their youth on Sunday were served a defeat, 24-17 by the <!--Default NodeId For Seattle Seahawks is 107,2003--><A HREF=>Seattle Seahawks</A>, but not before they made a statement about their future.

"We were all making plays out there, so I think it was a huge step in the right direction -- not only giving us confidence, but giving the coaches confidence in us," Bears rookie defensive end Michael Haynes said about his fellow young teammates.

The contributions came on all sides of the ball and largely due to injuries.

---Rookie wide receiver Justin Gage of Missouri caught two passes for 26 yards, including a third-and-11 catch of 21 yards to Seattle's 22 to set up the Bears' fourth-quarter tying points.

---Rookie wide receiver Bobby Wade caught an 11-yarder on third-and-seven on the same drive.

---Rookie running back Brock Forsey took a lateral from punter Brad Maynard, who'd taken a snap under center in a trick punt play that resulted in a 5-yard run on fourth-and-three late in the third quarter. The first down made possible a 14-play, 52-yard drive to Paul Edinger's 40-yard, fourth-quarter field goal to get the Bears within 17-9.

---Haynes had a first-half sack of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck for a yard loss.

Forsey's run was his first of the year.

"It's something we're always ready for," he said. "I'm always on the sideline waiting for coach to call it. We weren't all backed up. We were in the middle of the field. We had that short down distance."

Both rookie receivers were active because of an ankle injury kept Marty Booker out of the game and both played because Ahmad Merritt went out during the game with a strained neck.

Quarterback Chris Chandler thought the passes to both rookies at game's end came about because of a switch in stategy. The offense had started the game with a lot of deeper drops and throws down the field. Coordinator John Shoop switched in the second half to more timing routes and three- and five-step drops.

"As a result, I think some of the (shorter) routes we did run were kind of easier for some of those young guys," Chandler said. "Justin ran a big-time in-route (for 21 yards) and Bobby Wade did a great little return route for a first down."

Chandler had worked extensively with both receivers when he was backup quarterback running the opponents' plays against the Bears' first-team defense.

"Those were my two guys all this season up before this last week," he said. "Those two guys are really, really, good, young receivers down there."

Offensive coordinator John Shoop saw both positives and negatives from the two receivers.

"The two catches, they were encouraging," Shoop said of Gage. "But I think we could have had about four catches for about 80 yards. Justin could have had one on our own sideline (a drop) and, of course, on the next to last play of the game (another drop)."

Second-year safety Bobby Gray made a fumble recovery to kill one Seattle drive in Bears territory and second-year running back Adrian Peterson had 55 yards rushing on 16 carries as injured Anthony Thomas' fill-in before suffering an ankle injury.

"We fully recognize Adrian was running it well in the first half and we really wanted him to pound it a great deal in the second, but, of course, his injury prevented that from happening," Shoop said.

Rookie linebacker Lance Briggs made nine tackles to lead the Bears and linebacker Joe Odom had the third-highest total at seven. Rookie defensive tackle Ian Scott hurried Hasselbeck into an incompletion on a first-half pass.

"These guys are learning on the fly," defensive tackle Bryan Robinson said. "And we are certainly getting better."

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