One that almost got away

With each side having just one victory to their name coming in, the Bears-Lions match-up was billed as one of the worst games of the year. <P> However, it turned into the Bears most complete this season and resulted in a 24-16 win over Detroit.

While both sides got off to a slow start in a scoreless first quarter, the Bears took control midway through the second period and didn't look back, well almost.

With a 24-8 lead late in the fourth quarter the Bears were on their way to a decisive victory, but Detroit made one last desperate attempt at a come back.

Following Paul Edinger's first miss of the season on a blocked field goal attempt the Lions took over deep in their territory with just over nine minutes left to play. Aided by a roughing the passer penalty on Joe Odom, the Lions moved slowly down field. Despite trailing by 16 points it seemed like the Lions were in no hurry taking over seven minutes off the clock without scoring. The drive stalled inside the Bears' ten-yard line and following a Joey Harrington incompletion on fourth down the game looked to be over.

But in typical Bears fashion nothing can come easy.

Three consecutive runs by Brock Forsey failed to yield a first down and gave Detroit one last breath with less than two minutes to play.

It took the Lions 45 seconds to make the game a one score possession. Harrington completed passes of 15 and 19 yards before connecting with TE Mikheal Ricks for a three-yard score. The quarterback then went to WR Scotty Anderson for a two-point conversion.

With no timeouts left and just a minute on the game clock, Detroit lined up for an onside kick. Jason Hanson popped the ball up in the air and Bill Schroeder appeared to recover the ball legally at the Lions' 40.

However, upon further review the call was reversed because FB Cory Schlesinger touched the ball just before it went ten yards giving the ball back to Chicago.

"It looked like he got it to me, but I didn't see the review. I was on the field, but obviously I didn't have a birds eye view like the cameras did," Brian Urlacher said of the reversal. "It felt real nice because we don't get a lot of calls because we don't earn them. We got a break today, finally."

Uncharacteristically the Bears dominated the Lions for the majority of the game thanks to several big plays.

Following Charles Tillman's first interception as a pro, the rookie returned the ball 30 yards putting the Bears in sticking distance.

Two plays after Chris Chandler had a near miss with Justin Gage in the end zone; the 16-year veteran went back to the rookie receiver. This time Gage made a catch for a first down and then turned it into a 21-yard touchdown after breaking an initial tackle putting the Bears up 7-0.

The only reason Gage got the opportunity to play was because fellow receivers Marty Booker and Ahmad Merritt were inactive due to injuries.

"I'm glad I got a chance to play and as a rookie just letting people know we're here to play," Gage said. " I'm feeling more and more confident not only working with Chris but the offensive line the (and the entire) offense."

The Chandler-Gage connection hooked up again right before the half. In a third and 17 with the clock running under 20 seconds Chandler threw a jump ball to the former college basketball player at Missouri. Gage snatched the ball out of the air and the 37-yard completion allowed Chicago to add three points to their lead on a 37-yard field goal by Paul Edinger as time expired.

The momentum carried into the third quarter. Jerry Azumah field the opening kickoff at the 11-yard line and moved and grooved his way down the sideline, nearly stepped out of bounds before cutting back toward the middle of the field for an 89-yard touchdown.

"I just had to make one move and then go vertical," Azumah said modestly. "It's a credit to 'Sweat' (special teams coach Mike Sweatman) and the rest of the guys blocking.

The Bears had been close to breaking several returns since Azumah took over the responsibilities including a long of 46 yards, but the first kick return for a touchdown since a 94 yarder by Glyn Milburn on Dec. 13, 1998 came at the expense of the Lions.

"We've been working it so hard, and we've been so close and to see it finally go the distance (was great)," said Coach Dick Jauron. "It was blocked well, but he had to make a number of guys miss and he had to have speed and he did both of those."

Azumah also returned to the staring lineup at cornerback after a three-week demotion. He came away with his first interception in 22 regular season games.

Meanwhile, Chandler continued to spread the ball around to various receivers. Bobby Wade came up with an 18-yard reception on third and 10 moving the ball into Lions' territory. Then Dez White, one of six players to catch at least one ball, moved Chicago inside the red zone with a 12-yard catch. Three plays later another rookie got into the scoring column. Brock Forsey punched it in from eight yards out, which extended the Bears lead to 24-0.

On the ensuing kickoff it was the Lions special teams that would breakup the Bears chance at their first shutout since a 24-0 win over the Lions on Dec. 30 of 2001.

Reggie Swinton took Edinger's kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown.

"Obviously we made enough errors to let them back in the game," Jauron said.

Looking ahead the Lions went for two and converted the attempt on Harrington pass to Az-Zahir Hakim.

The score remained 24-8 late into the fourth quarter.

The Bears looked to close out the game on several occasions, but the Lions kept getting one more chance at redemption. Finally a borderline call went the Bears way on the reversal of the onside kick that sealed the victory.

"It's tough because we didn't finish the game out like we wanted to," Urlacher said. "A win is a win."

At 2-5 the Bears have crawled out of the bottom of the NFC North and are just one game behind the 3-4 Packers for second place in the division.

"A lot of guys stepped up and made plays for us and made plays when they had to make them," Jauron said. "That was terrific to see and of course a not so young guy at quarterback played very well."

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