Overconfidence almost cost the Bears a win

In a season where Dick Jauron could win coach of the year honors Chicago's 27-24 victory over Tampa Bay left an eerie feeling of what could have been.

Tony Parrish intercepted a pass from Brad Johnson giving the Bears with 1:53 left in the game, which looked to be the end of the game. However, Anthony Thomas fumbled the first down handoff from Jim Miller, but the rookie recovered the ball. Following that play Tampa Bay took their last timeout with 1:47 on the game clock.

With the 40 second play clock usually resetting a few seconds after the end of a play the Bears could have feasibly taken 90 seconds off the game clock leaving Tampa with under 20 seconds to try and tie the game. Chicago did just that, but instead of punting the ball on fourth down Miller took a knee stopping the clock with seconds left and giving the Bucs the ball back on their 32 yard line. Although, the home team didn't have any timeouts left Martin Gramatica has a career long field goal of 55 yards. So, Tampa Bay had to gain about 40 yards for him to have any kind of shot.

A punt on 4th down would have lengthened the field for an offense that had been moving the ball all day via the pass. Johnson completed two dump off passes to Warrick Dunn, but he was able to get out of bounds on both gaining 14 and 8 yards. On the second reception R.W. McQuarters hit Dunn on the edge of the sideline and a borderline call went against Chicago. McQuarters was flagged 15 yards for a late hit, which spotted the ball at the 31-yard line. Gramatica came on for a 48-yard field goal attempt that hit the right upright and fell to the ground giving the Bears the 27-24 win.

The decision not to punt the ball or even try to run out the clock was made by head coach Dick Jauron.

"I wanted to run the ball into the end zone, obviously. When the ball ended up on the ground I told John [Shoop] I just want to take a knee now and we'll take it three times and we'll give them 18-20 seconds," Jauron said. "We'll put our defense out there and I'm confidence our defense will stop them. It was my call and I made it and I'll certainly live with it."

The Bears defense did come through numerous times during the game forcing four turnovers, but overconfidence could have cost the team the game and Jauron his job. If the Bears had went on to lose the game in overtime the decision would have been increasingly criticized. A year in which everything has gone right for the Bears it almost turned around against the Bucs.

The Bears did beat the Bucs on the road for the first time since 1995, but a loss would have put them at 6-3. Leaving them in a tie with Green Bay and putting Tampa Bay just a game behind at 5-4. Jerry Angelo, who has already declined to give Jauron a vote of confidence, wouldn't have taken a loss to his old team kindly.

Despite being second-guessed by the media Monday Jauron said he still thought taking a knee on fourth down was the right call. What Angelo decides at the end of the season could be a different matter.


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