While kicking game-winning field goals is never a routine occurrence, Paul Edinger has done it more times than not during his four years in Chicago.
There was nothing routine about this particular day for the placekicker. The lakefront winds were blowing in every direction and the flight of the football was compared to the path a curveball would take when coming out a pitcher's hand.
The difficult conditions contributed to Edinger misfiring on two of this three previous attempts of the game, both of which were from shorter distances of 30 and 33 yards than his final attempt.
The 45-yard try looked to be short, but somehow cleared the crossbar giving the Bears a 27-24 victory over Washington.
"I don't know if anybody in here has any idea how good a kick that really was," said Coach Dick Jauron. "It was hard to kick the ball today. Every time it went in the air you had no idea what the wind was going to do."
It's Edinger's fifth game winner of his 4-year career and the second this season. Before the conversion Edinger had missed 8 of his last 15 attempts, but never doubted he would hit the one that counted most.
"You can't," Edinger said, "As soon as you get down on yourself you stay down. I wanted to get back right out there every time. It just came down to we got in position and I came through."
In contrast to Rex Grossman's first start, in which the offense didn't run the ball over, the unit gave away the ball on their two opening possessions. The miscues resulted in just three points, but it was the way Grossman responded that made the difference.
Following Grossman's first career interception on a deflected pass inside his own 10, the rookie connected with Marty Booker for a 59-yard touchdown on his next play from scrimmage.
Booker beat Pro Bowl corner Champ Bailey on the play and outran the Washington defense for the touchdown.
"It was just a straight go route and he told me in the huddle go with the wind and I told him I'd be there for him," Booker said. "It was just one-on-one with me and Champ and when he turned I guess he lost the ball. I just adjusted to it and was able to catch it and run it in."
Grossman was so excited about his first career touchdown that he sprinted down to the end zone and took the ball away from Booker then turned toward the sideline grinning ear to ear.
The play not only gave the Bears their first lead, but gave the offense a comfort zone.
"I knew that the series that we were all backed up it was just a weird drive," Grossman said. "I didn't want to throw behind the receiver there so I led him a little bit and it got tipped up in the air. It was just a weird play and I just disregarded the whole drive and the next play Marty Booker ran past Champ Bailey and made a great play for a touchdown, so it definitely calmed us down and put in the right mindset for the rest of the game."
Following a 20-yard reception by Stanley Pritchett the Bears had a chance to jump out to a 14-3 lead, but failed to punch it in despite having first and goal from the 1-yard line. Anthony Thomas didn't touch the ball in the red zone and Chicago settled for a chip shot field goal by Edinger.
Steve Spurrier's trick plays kept Washington in the game early. A lateral from QB Tim Hasselbeck to Rod Gardner turned into a touchdown when the receiver threw to a wide open Chad Morton for a 36-yard score.
"It unsettled our guys," said defensive coordinator Greg Blache of the trick play. "It allowed some of the other things to function. All the sudden you're looking for screens, you're looking for draws, you're looking for reserve trick plays. You're looking instead of playing."
Hasselbeck, who started the game 0-for-6, took advantage of the Chicago apprehension and finished the half completing 11-of-12 attempts including a 13-yard go-ahead score to Laveranues Coles.
Trailing 17-10 at the start of the third quarter the Bears seemed to take control of the game with two extended scoring drives.
After an Anthony Thomas 6-yard touchdown run was nullified by a penalty, Chicago tied the game on Grossman's second TD pass. An 11-yard completion to Justin Gage, who had fumbled earlier in the game, capped a 13-play drive that took over six minutes.
While Thomas had only 8 carries through 30 minutes, he became the focal point of the offense in the second half. He carried the ball 13 times for 66 yards in the third quarter and finished the day with a season-high 141 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries.
"We knew that we didn't get the ball in Train's hands enough in the first half," Jauron said. "In order to win the game we felt we felt like we had to run and we didn't feel like we had been stopped in the run (game)."
The running back gave Chicago a 24-17 lead with a 3-yard touchdown. On the possession Thomas accounted for 53 of the 81 yards and in the process went over the century mark for the 9th time in his career.
After gaining just 7 yards of total offense in the third quarter Washington put 61 yards on the opening four plays of the final period. Hasselbeck completed four straight passes, the last of which tied the game with Coles' second score of the day.
The Bears had a chance to take the lead on the ensuing possession, but Edinger went right on a 33-yard field goal attempt.
Spurrier continued his gambling ways and was set to go for a fourth and inches inside his forty, but a false start penalty on LG Derrick Dockery forced the Redskins to punt.
With three timeouts and over five minutes left the Bears took over at their 21. A 3rd and 11 conversion on a 22-yard pass from Grossman to David Terrell moved Chicago into Washington territory. From there the Bears took their time running the clock while moving the ball.
Jauron stole a page out of Spurrier's book and went for a 4th and 1 when the Bears weren't in field goal range. Thomas got just enough to pick up a first down to continue the drive. Grossman then went to Dez White for 9 yards that put the ball just inside the 30-yard line, which had been Edinger's self-imposed limit.
"He's clutch guy," said Brian Urlacher of Edinger. "He's still the only guy I'd want out there in that situation. I guess he hit good enough to it through the wind. I thought it was short until I saw the guys hands go up."
The win means the Bears finish their inaugural season at the new Soldier Field with a 6-2 record and have shot at finishing 8-8 with a trip at Kansas City left on the schedule.
"We want to get back to .500 and build something toward next year," Thomas said. "It's more of a pride and heart. We can't go to the playoffs, so we just want to go and win and try to get some start for next year."