Bears Overcome 19-Point Deficit

With 8:18 left in the third quarter the Bears trailed 28-9. It looked like the Bears four game-winning streak was over and Chicago was on the verge of being embarrassed by the 49ers for a second straight year. The Bears trailed by 15 points with 7:47 to go and needed two touchdowns, an extra point and a two-point conversion just to tie the game. However, the Bears made one of the greatest comebacks in team history to pull out a 37-31 win in overtime.

"That was unbelievable," said Dick Jauron about the Bears second biggest comeback win in team history. "I cant' tell you how good it feels and I'm so happy for our football team. A lot of things went wrong and we made some bad plays, some bonehead plays but I never sensed any letdown or any give-up in any of them."

Coming into the game San Francisco's offense was the Bears main concern, but it was the 49er defense that made an immediate impact. After a 10-play drive by the 49ers resulted in a blocked field goal it looked like the Bears had made an early stand against San Francisco's offense.

The momentum quickly swung back to the visiting team. Bryant Young timed the snap count perfectly and burst into the backfield breaking up the exchange between Jim Miller and Anthony Thomas. Young dragged Miller to the ground forcing the quarterback to fumble. In a play which resembled that of the Bears defense in previous weeks, linebacker Julian Peterson picked up the loose ball and jogged in to the end zone. The 33-yard fumble return gave San Francisco a 7-0 lead with 7:30 left in the first quarter.

Chicago's receivers had problems holding on to the ball early. Dez White and David Terrell both dropped passes from Miller forcing the Bears to punt after moving into enemy territory. San Francisco took over on their 15 and marched down the field on ten plays. Jeff Garcia slowly moved his team downfield with short tosses to his big receivers. A 30-yard completion to running back Garrison Hearst gave the 49ers first and goal from the Chicago 8. A pass interference call on Brian Urlacher put San Francisco at the one. The following play Garcia connected with tight end Brian Jennings for a one yard score. The drive took 4:30 off the clock and gave the 49ers a commanding 14-0 lead with just over a minute left in the first quarter.

Going into the second quarter each team traded punts. The Bears, who had good field position throughout the day, started at their 47. Miller completed a 30-yard pass to Marty Booker moving the ball to the 23. The two hooked up again three plays later for an eight-yard gain giving the Bears a first down on the 11. On 3rd and 4 Miller forced a pass into Booker, which Ahmed Plummer intercepted in the end zone.

The Bears defense gave their offense solid field position after Brian Urlacher picked off Garcia. The linebacker dropped back in zone coverage and intercepted a pass over the middle. He returned just inside San Francisco territory.

With the passing game sputtering Anthony Thomas had four successive carries, which brought the ball to the 35-yard line. However, the Bears worst fear became a reality. As Jim Miller dropped back to pass he was hit hard and drove to the ground. The 63,295 in attendance collectively held their breath as the quarterback slowly made his way off the field. Miller suffered a hip pointer on the play and didn't return. Shane Matthews came in on 3rd and 8. From the shotgun Matthews threw a screen to White, who sprinted down the sideline and into the end zone. However, the play was called back on a questionable penalty. Olin Kreutz was ruled ineligible downfield bringing back the 36 yard score. The Bears weren't able to convert on third down and punted with 3:31 left before the half, San Francisco took over at their 20. Chicago's defense forced a three and out. With 25 mile an hour winds blowing in off the lake Brian Jennings snap went through the hands of punter Jason Baker and rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety. With 1:54 left in the second quarter the Bears trailed 14-2 and had a chance to cut into the lead before halftime.

Baker's free kick from the 20 following the safety was short and DT Robert Newkirk returned it to the 45. With James Allen in the backfield Matthews did something he wasn't able to do in his two starts this season, lead the offense to a touchdown. The quarterback continued to throw short passes, but went 5/5 on the drive. Matthews dumped the ball off to Allen on 3rd and 5 and the running back was able to scramble for the first down. Allen caught an eight-yard pass the next play. A 49er personal foul following a reception by Booker moved the ball down to the 18 with 52 seconds on the clock. Chicago surprised San Francisco's defense by giving the ball to Allen on a run. The gain looked to be minimal as Allen neared the sideline, but he quickly turned back toward the field as he was brought down out-of-bounds at the 3. The seldom used Daimon Shelton then caught a Matthews' pass for the touchdown cutting the deficit to 14-9 at the half.

Whatever momentum the Bears took into the locker room stayed there. Less than two minutes into the second half San Francisco took a 21-9 lead. On the 49ers third play of the 3rd quarter Garcia took advantage of a mismatch finding Hearst, who was covered by Warrick Holdman, for a 60 yard scoring strike.

Chicago needed a scoring drive to offset San Francisco's touchdown. The offense mixed the run and pass effectively and moved the ball into the red zone. However, for the second time in the game the 49er defense turned the game around. Zack Bronson picked off a pass intended for Fred Baxter and returned it 97 yards for a score, which gave San Francisco a 28-9 lead with 8:18 left in the third quarter. Keeping any chance of staying in the game the Bears put together an eight play 66-yard drive. Thomas gained 40 yards on three carries including a 19-yard score, which kept Chicago in the game at 28-16 with 4:58 left in the 3rd.

The rookie had another productive day rushing 27 times for 127 yards. He is the first Bear running back to go over 100 yards in back to back games since Raymont Harris accomplished the fete in 1997.

The teams traded punts, which gave the 49ers the ball with ten seconds left in the quarter. San Francisco looked to put the game away with their next drive. The 49ers methodically moved downfield with several 3rd down conversions. The drive lasted 7:23 seconds and resulted in a 40-yard field goal by Cortez. The drive left 7:47 on the game clock with San Francisco leading 31-16.

After Matthews threw an incomplete pass to Baxter the Bears turned to the ground game. Thomas carried the ball for three consecutive plays, which resulted in a first down. After Booker caught a pass for another first down the 49ers helped Chicago with their third personal foul penalty of the game bringing the ball to San Francisco 26. Thomas got the ball on a draw, gaining 12 yards. Two plays later Matthews found David Terrell for a 13-yard score. It was Terrell's first TD catch of his career and cut the lead to 31-23 with 4:08 left.

The Bears elected not to go for an onside kick after lining up for one. San Francisco only needed a few first downs to seal the victory, but Chicago's defense put the pressure on Jeff Garcia, who came up two yards short on a 3rd down scramble. The Bears used their second timeout with 2:58 to play. Baker had a solid punt of 47 yards with a minimal return by R.W. McQuarters.

Chicago took over at their 33 with 2:46 left to play and one timeout. Matthews, who was accurate all day, was particularly accurate on the final drive going 9/10 for 62 yards. The Bears used the run and pass before the two minute warning to put themselves in position to tie the game. Thomas gained 12 yards on the first down. Matthews found Dez White, who made a cut to the outside for an extra 12 yards resulting in a 20 yard gain. The QB went to White again this time for 8 yards. Thomas got the call on second down and gained just enough for a first down as the clock ran to the two-minute mark. After Booker lost a yard on a Matthews pass Rex Tucker was called for a false start, which put the Bears in 2nd and 16. Matthews hooked up with White on a 13-yard gain. Matthews then went to his tight ends on two critical conversions. On 3rd and three Matthews found Baxter for three yards with 1:12 to play. On 4th and 3 the Bears took their final timeout to draw up a play. The call was to tight end John Davis, who picked up a first down at the 4-yard line. Matthews found Terrell in the far side of the end zone for his second TD of the day. The rookie had tight coverage, but was able to catch the ball with one hand and keep both feet in bounds. The play was reviewed but stood, cutting the deficit to 31-29. Chicago took one last gamble calling a run up the middle. Anthony Thomas' knee touched the ground as the ball broke the plain. Again the play was reviewed and again it stood.

"We talked about two different plays and we've always really liked that play," Jauron said. "We thought that was the play to run. The line felt good about it; everybody did, so we said that's what we'll go with regardless of what they do. If they blitz, we'll got with it. If they don't, we'll go with it."

The Bears had scored 15 points in less than four minutes to tie up the game. Garcia took a knee, which brought the game to overtime. The 49ers won the toss and elected to receive. On the first play from scrimmage Garcia threw to an open Terrell Owens, who juggled the ball as he saw Urlacher closing in on him for a big hit. The ball popped up in the air and into the hands of Mike Brown. The safety returned it 33 yards for the game winning score.

"Terrell Owens was running a slant and he just dropped the ball," Brown said. "The ball went into the air and fell into my hands. Like I said, I just tried to get into the end zone." The 37-31 victory gives the Bears their fifth straight win and sole possession of first place in the NFC Central.

"I like where we are," Jauron said. "I'd rather be 6-0, but I like where we are right now. I like the way they're playing and working. We're good enough. We've got to do things right but I'll tell you what, when we play as a team, we're a hard team to beat."


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