Full-scale turnaround

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. _ The Bears hope the significance of their 28-21 comeback victory Sunday over the New York Giants goes beyond rallying from a 14-0 deficit to their first winning streak under coach Lovie Smith.

They think this turnaround signaled a turnaround in their season, as well.

"It's just like coach said: 'it's a long season,' " Bears wide receiver David Terrell said. "Everybody jumped off quick in the first half.

"It's our time to go out and play. It's going to be us. It's going to be us now."

The locker room enthusiasm was unbridled after the Bears' defense had turned around a game, handed it to the offense to regain the lead, then took control again for the win. Even a potential injury to quarterback Craig Krenzel couldn't diminish their mood after finishing the first half of the year 3-5.

Krenzel, who completed 8-of-21 for 144 yards, suffered a side injury of unknown severity in the first half, had an X-ray, but finished the game. The Bears said more will be known today, and wouldn't let him talk to the media after the game.

Lovie Smith's defensive philosophy is causing turnovers, and for the first time the Bears' defense dominated in this manner with all forms of pressure. They caused five turnovers, withstood a disastrous first quarter and held off the Giants in the closing minutes when a late New York score and successful onside kick nearly destroyed their efforts.

"We talk about creating turnovers," Smith said. "Most of them, they didn't turn the ball over -- they were takeaways, as far as I'm concerned.

"If you have that type of approach, that type of aggressive behavior out there on the field, you have a chance to get some of those plays."

The Giants (5-3) had started out the aggressors, needing only 38 yards for a touchdown drive because of a short Brad Maynard punt. Tiki Barber's 3-yard run made it 7-0. When Krenzel fumbled on a sack and Osi Umenyiora's recovered and returned it 16 yards to the Bears' 21, Kurt Warner threw 20 yards to Jeremy Shockey to set up Barber's 1-yard TD.

The game and season seemed headed into the swamp around the Meadowlands for the Bears when another short Maynard punt, this one 24 yards, set up the Giants for a 21-0 lead on Barber's 13-yard TD run, but a holding penalty voided it, and three plays later the Bears' turnover barrage began when Jerry Azumah sacked Warner, knocking the ball away and directly to Bears rookie Nathan Vasher.

Just before that, Bears defensive backs coach Vance Bedford had called around the entire defense and gave them a message.

" 'We're better than that, let's forget about that,' " said Bears defensive end Alex Brown, who came within half a sack of the Bears' team single-game record with four. He told us, let's forget about those two drives and let's play ball."

The defense responded with seven sacks for the game. Mike Green and Ian Scott made fumble recoveries and Vasher and Azumah interceptions.

"I think if there was one thing that we did, it was we showed them that we weren't going to go away," Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. "They scored 14 right away, which was disappointing. But we kept coming back and then we got the turnovers. I think that was important, that we weren't going to curl up and go hide in the corner."

The Bears' limited offense did its best to inspire the defense. Anthony Thomas rushed for 110 yards on 28 carries and two touchdowns. Krenzel threw a touchdown bomb to Bernard Berrian for the second straight week.

The 35-yard pass to Berrian went toward the corner of the end zone and came with 5:13 left in the first half to cut the Bears' deficit to 14-7. It came one play after Krenzel had hit Terrell over the middle on a slant pattern for 28 yards.

"Terrell's catch of a slant, that was a big play and that got the offense rolling," Berrian said. "That gave us a chance for (offensive coordinator Terry) Shea to call the big play. When you get a big play like that, it's good to follow it up with another big play."

The Bears needed only 53 yards for that scoring drive, and when Green stripped Giants receiver Ike Hilliard of the football and recovered it himself, the Bears needed to go only 29 yards for their next TD on Thomas' 4-yard run.

Vasher's interception followed on the first play after that, leading to Edinger's 22-yard field goal for a 17-14 Bears lead. And Azumah's interception occurred on the first play from scrimmage after Edinger's first field goal, leading to 21-yard field goal and 20-14 Bears halftime lead.

"The flurry of turnovers there was what got us back into it," Brown said. "We kind of kept it rolling, kept it rolling."

The Bears' defensive play reached a dominant level in the third quarter, as they stuffed three Giant third-and-ones and a fourth-and-one. They also got another takeaway, with Ian Scott recovering a ball that Brown jarred loose on a sack with the Giants in scoring position at the Bears' 20.

Thomas and Krenzel then left the Giants looking at a 28-14 deficit in the fourth quarter. Thomas broke a 41-yard touchdown run to end a 76-yard drive and Krenzel ran the two-point conversion run in.

"It was a draw play and you can pretty much run where you want to," Thomas said. "The offensive line gave me the opportunity to get outside and I did."

The Giants made a last stab when a 29-yard punt return set up Warner's 1-yard TD pass to Shockey with 1:56 to play, and Jack Brewer recovered Steve Christie's onside kick.

But Warner, who was 18-of-36 for 195 yards, was harassed into three incompletions and an Adewale Ogunleye sack on its final possession to end the game.

The Bears' defense completely stopped Barber, holding him to 72 yards on 21 carries. Warner was so ineffective, that Giants coach Tom Coughlin thought about putting in Eli Manning at quarterback.

"I considered it, but at that point in time, we're 5-2, Kurt's the quarterback, the game was within striking distance. So the opportunity was there for Kurt to see if he could come back and win the game."

He couldn't.

"We just played good, hard ball," Smith said. "You think of Chicago football, you think of running the ball and good, hard defense, and that's what we were able to do today."

Now the objective is to see if they can continue it into the second half of the season.


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