Rookie Monsters

Bears coaches have said it before: They don't like playing rookies. It wasn't such a bad idea Sunday.

Brock Forsey and Justin Gage scored their first NFL touchdowns, Charles Tillman intercepted his first pass, and a handful of Chicago's puppies did something positive on an injury-riddled team in leading the Bears to a 24-16 victory over the hapless Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.

It was a small step for the Bears (2-5), who almost blew the game after jumping out to a 24-0 lead. Chicago managed to survive a fourth-quarter rally from the Lions, who recovered an onside kick with 52 seconds remaining, but the play was reversed on what some thought was a controversial call.

The Lions (1-6), who lost their sixth straight, lost their 20th consecutive road game. Their last road win was Dec. 17, 2000.

"My first goal was to make the team in training camp and then try and move my way up in the rotation," said Forsey, who started his first game, rushing for 56 yards and a touchdown. "You really don't know when you're going to get your chance to get in there, especially at running back -- it's such a physical position, guys get injured all the time -- but my opportunity came up a lot quicker than I anticipated. It feel good."

Forsey, the Bears' sixth-round pick out of Boise State, filled in for the injured Anthony Thomas and backup Adrian Peterson -- both game-time scratches.

In all, the Bears started four rookies, with Forsey being the only one on offense. Gage, a former Missouri standout who also played some college basketball, showed his rebounding skills when he outleaped Otis Smith on a 37-yard reception. This came after he caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Chris Chandler for the team's first score.

"Rookies don't get many chances," Gage said. "You've got to take advantage when you get them. I'm gaining a lot of confidence."

Fellow rookie receiver Bobby Wade had three catches. Michael Haynes put pressure on Detroit's Joey Harrington that led to Tillman's first career interception.

And Tillman, along with Lance Briggs and Joe Odom -- all rookies -- combined for 15 tackles.

"A lot of guys stepped up and made plays when we needed them, and a lot of those were from young guys," Bears coach Dick Jauron said.

Meanwhile, Jerry Azumah returned the second-half kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown -- the first for a Bear since Glyn Milburn on Dec. 13, 1998 – and also intercepted a pass. Azumah, ironically, was benched a few weeks back and got the start Sunday after the team decided to sit R.W. McQuarters.

"It was blocked well, but he had to make a number of guys miss," Jauron said of Azumah's return. "It was an unbelievable return."

Detroit had just eight first downs and the same number of penalties through three quarters before rallying late. Reggie Swinton returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and Harrington pulled Detroit within 10 on a 3-yard TD pass to Mikhael Ricks with 53 seconds remaining. The Lions got the 2-point conversion to pull within eight, and it looked like Bill Schroeder recovered the ensuing onside kick. But it was reviewed and reversed.

"I was out there (on the kickoff team). It looked like (Schroeder) got it," Brian Urlacher said. "It was nice to get a call because we don't get a lot of them."

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