Bears Inside Slant: October 23

The Bears ended 58 minutes of touchdown-less frustration in Philadelphia with a season-saving march to paydirt that covered 97 yards on 11 plays without the benefit of a timeout. Get the Inside Slant from the NFL experts at

On Monday, quarterback Brian Griese corrected the misconception that he was the sole mastermind of the Bears' game-winning, season-saving, 97-yard touchdown drive with time running out in Sunday's 19-16 win over Philadelphia.

The confusion came about because, in his postgame press conference, Griese said: "The last play of the game (the 15-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad), we had a clock stoppage. And I knew the headset was out, so I ran over to the sideline and got the last play [from offensive coordinator Ron Turner upstairs in the booth via quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton on the sideline], but the remainder of the plays were ones that I called."

Not exactly, as Griese took pains to point out Monday afternoon.

"I did not call all the plays in that drive," Griese said. "I did call some. It was a complete effort, obviously, from our coaching staff calling those two big plays, and those guys deserve the credit. The call to Bernard [Berrian] on 3rd-and-3 (a 25-yard completion to the Eagles 36-yard line) with the max protection and getting Bernard down the middle of the field was a great call, as was the play to Devin Hester (a 21-yard pass to the Philly 15) and the last play for the touchdown."

Overstating his role in the final drive doesn't take away from Griese's impressive performance as the triggerman (7-for-11 passing for 97 yards). But there obviously was some negative feedback Monday at Halas Hall, much of it the result of knee-jerk reaction from callers to sports talk radio shows vilifying Turner and suggesting the Bears would be better off letting Griese call his own plays all the time. Griese also intimated on Sunday that he'd be agreeable to calling his own plays.

As a result of the fallout, Griese made an unprecedented request to address the media prior to head coach Lovie Smith's regularly scheduled 3 p.m. press conference. On Mondays following victories, there usually is no media access to players.

"I think that it's gotten a little out of control," Griese said. "From what I read from you guys ... and I wanted you guys to understand what really happened, and I didn't feel that that was being portrayed. If that's my miscommunication, I take responsibility for that. But it was a complete [team] effort."

Griese taking a little too much credit Sunday night isn't like Al Gore taking credit for inventing the Internet, but it did diminish the efforts of Turner and the offensive staff. If you're keeping track at home, Turner called the first two plays in the drive; Griese the next four, including one that was negated by offsetting penalties; and Turner the final four. There were also two spiked passes in the 11-play drive.

"There were three or four plays – moving-clock plays – early in that drive where I had to call plays at the line of scrimmage," Griese said. "But after those plays, we got to about midfield and I could see Pep Hamilton on the sideline and could read his lips for three big plays there. One, the flat to Desmond [Clark for 7 yards], the pass downfield (on the next play) to Bernard Berrian and then the pass to Devin Hester. I read Pep's lips on the sideline, called those plays in the huddle and ran those plays."

Bottom line, Griese's play has jump-started the Bears offense, which has averaged 26 points in his four starts. In his last three starts, Griese has completed 68 of 111 passes (61.3 percent) for 917 yards, six touchdowns, three interceptions and passer ratings of 97.8, 89.2 and 97.8.

"In the last three weeks, we've definitely taken steps," Smith said. "We've spread the ball around quite a bit, and we've gotten most of the guys involved in the offense, which is big."

And, after Monday's clarification, now they've spread the credit around.

Sunday was, without doubt, the biggest day in a disappointing season for Muhammad.

WR Muhsin Muhammad
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 12-year veteran's 44-yard reception in the second quarter was his longest play of the season and his longest in three seasons with the Bears. Five plays later he added an 11-yard catch, and by halftime, his 55 receiving yards already represented his most productive day of the season, topping the 49 yards he had against the Lions in Week 4.

Later, Muhammad's 15-yard game-winning TD catch with nine seconds left in the game capped a 97-yard drive for a spectacular comeback, as he finished with a game-best 79 receiving yards on five catches, tied for tops on the Bears.

Although Muhammad still has modest totals of 17 catches and 225 yards, he's caught TD passes in three of the last four games. Before Sunday, he had two catches or fewer in five of the first six games.

But against the Eagles, Muhammad and an offense that normally takes a back seat to the defense came up big at crunch time.

"The offense, which normally for us is kind of the Achilles' heel of the team, was able to come back and drive the ball 97 yards," Muhammad said. "It was a great effort for our team and a great win for our team."

It was also a great effort for Muhammad, and a long time coming after he caught just four passes for 36 yards in the first three games.

"I said back then, sometimes you have to be patient," Muhammad said. "You never know when your number will come up." …

The strangest play of the game was also one of the luckiest for the Bears. With the score tied 9-9 early in the fourth quarter and the Bears at midfield after the Eagles' Saverio Rocca booted a 27-yard punt out of bounds rather than risk kicking to Hester, the Eagles appeared to get a huge break.

C Olin Kreutz's snap zipped through Griese's legs and was scooped up by Eagles S Sean Considine, who was eventually tackled by Cedric Benson 20 yards downfield. However, according to a little-known NFL rule, when that situation occurs, the play is automatically ruled a false start. So instead of losing the ball, the Bears were merely penalized five yards.

"I never touched the ball," Griese said. "I guess there were some chunks in the middle of the field, and Olin went to snap the ball and the nose of the ball got caught in the chunks of the grass. I've never experienced that ruling before. That was quite fortuitous for us."

Even Turner didn't know the rule, nor did Kreutz or G Ruben Brown.

"Honestly, I did not," Turner said. "I do now, but I didn't then. My first thought was I hope that one of their defensive linemen interfered with the snap, maybe hit the ball to make it snap like that because I've never seen anything like that. I was looking for a flag, thinking maybe they interfered with the snap to make it go like that. Other than that, I had no idea. Then when I saw the flag, I still had no idea what it was."

According to Art McNally, the NFL officials spokesman, neither the rule nor the interpretation is new.

"Under these circumstances, it has to be ruled a false start," McNally said in a statement. "If [the quarterback] is in shotgun, and the [ball] is snapped over his head, clean play, pick it up, go ahead and go the other way, everything's fine. The fact that he's taking the snap direct from center, goes through his legs, [the official] has to kill it right away, false start." …

With his punt- and kickoff-return duties, Hester hasn't had enough time to learn all the offensive plays and he hasn't had a lot of experience in the two-minute drill, but he's such a threat the Bears want him on the field anyway. He had two catches for 30 yards on the winning drive, even if the veteran Muhammad had to help him get lined up in the correct spot a couple times.

"We were put in certain situations where our positions switch up [in the formation]," Hester said. "I didn't know some of the plays that got put in. [Muhammad] kind of guided me through it and helped me out."

LB Brian Urlacher was credited with a team-best 13 tackles vs. the Eagles, one week after making just five tackles in a poor performance vs. the Vikings. … Benson's longest run on 17 carries was 9 yards, although he did have one reception for 19 yards, his longest catch of the season. … CB Nathan Vasher (groin) is expected to miss his fifth straight game this week, thereby gaining an extra week of rest and rehab during the bye to make sure he doesn't aggravate the injury when he returns on Nov. 11. … TE Greg Olsen caught four passes for 48 yards, the third consecutive game in which the rookie has caught at least four passes and gained at least 48 yards. … DT Darwin Walker is expected back this week after missing two games with a sprained knee that wasn't considered very serious.

– Griese drove the Bears 97 yards with no timeouts in 103 seconds, hitting Muhammad for the game-winner from 15 yards out with nine seconds left. Griese threw for 322 yards, completing 27 of 41 passes with one TD and no picks for a passer rating of 97.8. For the second straight week, Griese utilized nine receivers, including five on the final drive. Muhammad had his best game of the season with five catches for 79 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D – On 23 carries, including 17 by Benson, the Bears' longest gain was 9 yards. Benson averaged 2.7 yards per carry for a total of 46 yards, and as a team the Bears were limited to 72 yards.

PASS DEFENSE: C – The Bears sacked Donovan McNabb three times, but on most of his 34 passes, the Eagles quarterback wasn't pressured at all as he completed 21-of-34 for 226 yards and a TD with no interceptions for a passer rating of 91.1.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus – The Bears weren't shredded on the ground as they have been in recent weeks, but they still permitted 4.9 yards per carry and 123 rushing yards on 25 attempts. Urlacher rebounded from a lousy game in Week 6 to lead the team with 13 tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C – Hester had no punt- or kickoff-return opportunities as the Eagles preferred to kick short or out of bounds. PK Robbie Gould connected on four of five field-goal attempts.

COACHING: C-plus – The Bears seemed to play with a lot more intensity than they did a week earlier. Despite still missing some important players because of injury, they won a game they needed to have to stay in playoff contention.

  • Comparing Urlacher to Butkus and Singletary
  • "New" Soldier Field vs. "Old" Soldier Field
  • Reliving the 61-7 win over Green Bay in 1980
  • An excerpt from Cindi Dammann's Tailgating Tales
  • Getting to know LB Jamar Williams

All of that plus much more in the latest issue of ...

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