NFC Central Champions

The Bears dominated the Jaguars from beginning to end in winning their first NFC Division crown since 1990. Chicago won its 13th game of the season in blowout fashion defeating Jacksonville, which means Soldier Field did not host its last game. The Bears will have at least one home game in the postseason with the possibility of more to come.

The game began much like it did against the Lions with Jim Miller connecting with D'Wayne Bates. However, the offense was unable to move the ball until late in the first quarter. It was a battle of field position much of the opening period.

Jacksonville had an opportunity to take the lead, but James "Big Cat" Williams put his 6'7 frame up in the air to block placekicker Mike Hollis' 36 yard attempt keeping the game scoreless.

John Shoop tried to deceive the Jags defense on the following play. Miller threw a lateral to Marty Booker, who has one touchdown pass on the season, but the receiver overthrew an open David Terrell. Miller then went to Bates for a 20-yard gain converting a 3rd and 8 situation. The Bears took a 3-0 lead thanks to a 47-yard field goal by Paul Edinger with 2:42 left in the first quarter.

"I thought Paul Edinger's first field goal (47-yards) was huge, particularly on a day like this, to kick the ball that far and that accurately," Jauron said.

The game remained the same late into the second quarter as the Bears began to run the ball against the Jaguars defensive line. Thomas and Leon Johnson teamed up to move the ball down the field. With Chicago going into the wind Jauron decided not to attempt a 45-yard field goal. With time in the pocket Miller went to Booker, who took a hit as he caught the ball over the middle, for a 17-yard reception on 4th and 8. Two plays later Johnson stumbled into the end zone from three yards out, which put Chicago up 10-0 with 1:12 to go before halftime.

It looked like Jacksonville would answer with something before the half, but that was before Jerry Azumah intervened. The Bears third cornerback started in place of an injured Walt Harris. In the early part of the game Brunell seemed to target Azumah, but he redeemed himself with his first pick of the year. His 13 yard return gave Chicago the ball on Jacksonville's 43 with 1:02 left in the half.

The Bears have struggled on 3rd and long all year, but Miller went to Bates for 19 yards on 3rd and 11. Going without a huddle Miller went to Terrell for eight yards. Allen then caught a ball out of the backfield, dodged a would be tackler and gained 13 yards giving the Bears first and goal from the five with 16 seconds left. After two Miller incomplete passes there were just six seconds left, which persuaded Jauron to put points on the board. Edinger connected from 23 yards out leaving the Bears with a 13-0 lead at the half.

Chicago looked to extend their lead coming out of the half, but Jags cornerback Marlon McCree sacked Miller from behind forcing a fumble, which Jacksonville recovered at the Bears 35. The sack was only the 17th allowed by Chicago's offensive line this season.

Brunell moved Jacksonville closer to the goal line following a 16-yard completion to Keenan McCardell. On the next play Brunell attempted to throw dump the ball over the middle, but Keith Traylor stuck his paw up and caught the ball one handed. The 300 pound plus defensive tackle broke two tackles began to run the ball back with nothing but green in front of him. He slowly made his way downfield looking for someone to lateral, but found no one so continued all the way down to the Jags eight-yard line.

"I didn't think he'd catch it because there was an offensive player hanging on him," Jauron said. "I thought it was a great play to catch it and then when he started running, I started worrying about his hamstring, which he hurt in pregame. So, I was actually telling him to get down. I'm glad he didn't. I'm glad he kept going."

The 67-yard return by Traylor was the turning point of the game. As Miller hooked up with David Terrell two plays later for a nine yard score putting the Bears comfortably in front 20-0.

However, Jacksonville didn't quit. The Jags put together a seven-play drive mixing the run and pass to cover 70 yards. Stacey Mack's 17-yard run put the ball at the Bears 15. Then went to McCardell for the score. The touchdown was the first allowed by the defense since the first quarter of the Washington game (12-23). However, Hollis missed his extra point attempt leaving the score at 20-6.

With a two-touchdown lead Chicago began giving the ball to Anthony Thomas. After a gain of four, Thomas broke the Bears rookie rushing record. He needed just 52 yards to do it and after a four yard run he had 55 on the day. He distanced himself between him and the former record holder Rashaan Salaam on the following play. Thomas burst into the open field for a 34-yard run. He followed that with a 12-yard scamper. The drive stalled inside the red zone, which brought Edinger on for his third field goal of the game. His 25-yard conversion put the Bears up 23-6 late in the third quarter.

The Bears defense handed the ball right back to the offense. Rosevelt Colvin caught a Brunell pass that deflected off Alfonso Boone's helmet. The turnover gave the Bears the ball at the Jacksonville 25.

The drive carried into the fourth quarter. On fourth and one from the four Jauron decided to send in Edinger for his fourth field goal attempt of the game. It proved to be nothing more than an extra point for the second year placekicker as he split the uprights for a 26-6 Bears lead.

The only thing left to doubt was if Marty Booker would get 100 receptions. Coming into the game he was six shy of the century mark and moved closer throughout the game. He caught six balls in the game and two in the final period to end his season with 100 catches.

Thomas continued to punish the Jaguars defense during the fourth quarter. He had ten carries for 59 yards and found the end zone for the seventh time this season. His three yard score capped the day for the Bears offense, which produced 33 points.

The Jags added a late score in garbage time behind a Bears prevent defense allowed Brunell to move his team down the field. He hit Jimmy Smith for a three-yard touchdown bringing the final score to 33-13.

The Packers defeated the Giants, but by virtue of their win Chicago takes the Central Division and a first round bye.

"It's been such a long ride to get to this point," said Bears quarterback Jim Miller. "Our guys are ecstatic. There's not a team that deserved it more. We've worked extremely hard to go from the point we were at three years ago to where we are now. Chicago should strap on their party boots and let the party begin. We're not done yet. We know we have to stay focused and keep on going but hopefully Chicago will enjoy it."

Bear Report Top Stories