Fish Fried: Dolphins Humble Bears at Soldier

Sunday's game at Soldier Field was just further proof that bookies are the only ones who consistently make money gambling on NFL games. The previously unbeaten Bears looked absolutely dominant at home, and the Dolphins had been simply awful this season no matter the venue. Lo and behold, Miami took advantage of six Chicago turnovers and pummeled their way to a 31-13 victory.

Technically, the Indianapolis Colts are still undefeated as they knocked off the rival New England Patriots in Foxboro on Sunday Night Football, but the members of the `72 Dolphins just got ready to pop the bubbly once again.

It was 21 years ago when a seemingly unbeatable Bears team went into Miami with a 12-0 record, yet Dan Marino & Company shocked Chicago with a 38-24 beating that stands the test of time as the highest-rated Monday Night Football broadcast ever. Don Shula's Dolphins of 1972 remianed the only undefeated team in NFL history, and they still are a generation later.

This time around, Ronnie Brown ran for a career-best 157 yards and Jason Taylor returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown to help Miami beat Chicago 31-13 at Soldier Field on Sunday. Brown carried 29 times and eclipsed his previous career-high set last season against Carolina by 35 yards.

An aging yet still sturdy defense constantly applied pressure in the face of Bears quarterback Rex Grossman as the Dolphins (2-6) snapped a four-game losing streak.

Besides losing for the first time this season, the Bears (7-1) saw All-Pro linebacker Brian Urlacher hurt his foot when he landed awkwardly in a pileup near the end of the game. The severity of the injury was not known, but early indications suggest that he could be out of the lineup for several weeks.

The 7-0 start was the Bears' best since that 1985 championship team won its first 12.

The Bears lost wide receiver Bernard Berrian, their main deep threat, to a rib injury on their first possession and were buried beneath a pile of turnovers. Tied with Baltimore for the league lead in takeaways (22) and turnover differential (11) entering the game, Chicago lost three fumbles to go along with three Grossman interceptions.

Grossman was under pressure all day and finished just 18-of-42 for 210 yards and a touchdown. The running game never got going either, with Thomas Jones carrying 20 times for 69 yards. Backup Cedric Benson ran hard in the first half but saw very little action in the second half, totaling 34 yards on eight attempts.

The suddenly vulnerable Bears have a tough task ahead, as well. They will travel to the east coast three consecutive times to face the Giants, Jets, and Patriots in Weeks 10-12. Next Sunday's game at the Meadowlands has been moved to prime time and will go a long way in determining home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

With the Dolphins leading 14-10, the Bears' Justin Gage fumbled the ball away after a 17-yard reception to start the second half. Miami's Andre Goodman recovered and returned it 33 yards to the Chicago 12, setting up Wes Welker's 6-yard touchdown catch.

After throwing a career-high five interceptions when Detroit visited Soldier Field last season, Harrington almost single-handedly kept the Bears in the game.

He was 16-of-32 for 137 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in his fourth start for the injured Daunte Culpepper. He missed open receivers all day long and had a pass picked off by Nathan Vasher late in the third quarter that led to a 38-yard field goal by Robbie Gould.

But Grossman simply did not have what it took to mount another Bears comeback.

He threw his third interception just under two minutes into the fourth quarter. Just one play later, Harrington connected with a leaping Chris Chambers for a 24-yard touchdown and a shocking 28-13 lead.

One week after scoring the first 41 points in a 41-10 rout of San Francisco, the Bears were in danger of being blown out in the second quarter when Alex Brown intercepted Harrington.

With a 14-3 lead, the Dolphins had third down at the Chicago 5 when Brown leaped at the line and made a spectacular two-handed catch. The Bears then made it a four-point game when Muhsin Muhammad turned and twisted for a 30-yard touchdown reception along the left sideline after pushing Miami's Will Allen twice.

Otherwise, very little went the Bears' way.

Bears head coach Lovie Smith said he wasn't sure what was wrong with Urlacher but hoped it wasn't serious.

"Brian Urlacher there at the end came off the field with a foot injury, and we'll see exactly what it is," Smith said. "We'll evaluate him and go from there."

Not only will all the talk surrounding the Bears possibly finishing their 16-game schedule unblemished immediately vanish, but suddenly, this team has some injuries to deal with and many questions to answer after being exposed on Sunday.

JC


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