JC's Game Blog: Bears vs. Broncos

Be sure to refresh this live blog every now and then for all the goings on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field in Chicago. From the field to the sideline to the press box, JC will make you feel like you're a part of the game.

Greetings, Bears fans. For the umpteenth consecutive week, the season is on the line for the Monsters of the Midway. It continues to look like 9-7 will get it done for a wild card berth in the NFC this season, but head coach Lovie Smith needs to get his club to 5-6 first with a victory over the improving Broncos today. Jay Cutler, the rocket-armed second-year quarterback from Vanderbilt, is starting to get it in Mike Shanahan's offense. Rex Grossman will need to outduel him at Soldier Field ...

Inactive today for the Bears are LB Darrell McClover, OG Josh Beekman, FB Lousaka Polite, WR Mike Hass, CB Nathan Vasher, DT Antonio Garay, and LB Nick Roach. Kyle Orton will serve as the third quarterback again. As for the Broncos, WR Taylor Jacobs, RB Travis Henry, RB Paul Smith, CB Jeff Shoate, RB Selvin Young, DE Larry Birdine, and DE Paul Carrington will sit this one out. Darrell Hackney is the No. 3 QB ...

Just before kickoff, it's 38 degrees with 65 percent humidity and winds out of the southwest at 14 miles per hour ...

The Bears have won the toss and elected to receive ...

Grossman and Co. pick up one first down on their initial drive of the game, but that's it as Brad Maynard trots onto the field for his first punt of the day. He's got to be careful with Glenn Martinez in the return game because he took one all the way back to the house last Monday night against Tennessee. Cutler gets his first shot starting at his own 13-yard line ...

A very quick three-and-out for the Broncos, but they avoid disaster on third down. Adewale Ogunleye sacked and stripped Cutler, but running back Andre Hall falls on the ball to prevent the turnover. After a Todd Sauerbrun punt, the Bears get it back quickly with good field position at their 47-yard line ...

Grossman throws a good-looking slant-and-go to Muhsin Muhammad on 3rd-and-2 from the 6-yard line, but the veteran can't hold on in the back-right corner of the end zone. Robbie Gould dents the scoreboard for the first time today, a 24-yard field goal giving the Bears a 3-0 lead. Cedric Benson should have scored on second down because he appeared to have a clear path to the end zone, but he tripped and fell as has been the case several times this season ...

Good coverage by Charles Tillman on a third-down pass to Brandon Marshall that forces another Denver three-and-out. Devin Hester, however, muffs the ensuing punt and gives it right back to the Broncos. Huge break for Cutler and his troops, who take over at the Chicago 25-yard line ...

Cutler is still yet to complete a pass on the day, which means veteran Jason Elam will try to tie the game with 3:20 to go in the first quarter. He does just that, splitting the uprights from 23 yards away to make it a 3-3 game. Once again, Ogunleye is all over the field in the early going as Mark Anderson and Alex Brown are pretty much splitting snaps opposite him at this point ...

Grossman is intercepted by Karl Paymah on the first play of the next drive as he tried to float one deep down the left sideline to Bernard Berrian. There certainly looked to be an awful lot of contact between Paymah and Berrian, but apparently it was incidental. Good field position for the Broncos once again, this time beginning from their own 41 ...

And that's the end of the first quarter, all tied up 3-3 but Denver threatening again ...

That's the second time Cutler has sprinted right on an option play, but this time he pitches it to Hall before being tackled. Hall puts a move on Adam Archuleta and scores from 16 yards out. Elam boots the point after for a 10-3 Bears lead, and Archuleta is hearing a chorus of boos right now from the Soldier Field faithful ...

On 3rd-and-4, Benson blasts up the middle for a 21-yard gain and a first down, but he's slow to get up after the play. While he's holding his left leg, it's hard to tell if it's a knee or an ankle that's banged up. If I had to guess after looking at the replay, I'd say he broke his left ankle as he got it caught underneath a defender while being tackled ...

Grossman is sacked by Dre' Bly on a cornerback blitz for an 11-yard loss. He never really had a chance since it was a play-action pass, which means the pattern takes longer to develop after getting the snap from center. Gould could have come on for about a 52-yard field goal, but Smith elects to punt instead and only gets 15 yards net as the ball bounces into the end zone ...

Danieal Manning intercepts Cutler on a pass intended for Brandon Stokley, but Hunter Hillenmeyer is whistled for illegal contact and eliminates a potentially big turnover. But just one play later, Lance Briggs forces a fumble from Mike Bell. Ogunleye pounces on it and rumbles to the Denver 16 giving his offense a short field ...

Grossman just hit Greg Olsen on a beautiful deep ball down the left sideline for what would have been a game-tying touchdown, but Fred Miller takes the points off the board because of a holding penalty. This place is about to riot about now, and Miller is Public Enemy No. 1 with the way he's been playing lately. Gould comes on to try a 44-yard field goal and salvage some points on the drive, and he's good to trim the lead down to 10-6 ...

The Bears defense answers with a three-and-out, which means it's time for Hester to get uncorked. He's been way too quiet since Week 6 against Minnesota. But Sauerbrun manages an unreturnable 47-yard punt, and then the field position takes another shot as Josh Gattis is called for holding and pushes the ball all the way back to the Chicago 14-yard line ...

Now Muhammad hears it from the crowd, as he drops a relatively easy pass to catch on 2nd-and-9. And could that third-down draw to Adrian Peterson have been any more predictable? It drives me crazy how conservative all these NFL coaches are these days because they're scared to death of making a mistake (read: playing not to lose) ...

"This is the two-minute warning" ...

The Bears come up with another three-and-out on defense, which means Hester gets another chance. For some reason, he lets the punt hit the ground for the second straight time. I'm telling you, if he ever fumbles in a game, his psyche completely changes and he gets very tentative ...

Nothing happening for the Bears as the first half is drawing to a close. Not a good punt by Maynard right there, just 29 yards and straight out of bounds. 48 seconds left before intermission, but I'm guessing the Broncos will be fairly happy heading to the locker room with a 10-6 advantage ...

So much for that idea, as Hall takes a screen pass from Cutler and turns it into an electrifying 65-yard gainer. The Bears do keep them out of the end zone, however, as Elam ultimately tacks on three more points with a 22-yard chip shot. 13-6 Broncos with just 13 second left, but it will be fun to hear how loud the boos are after Grossman takes a knee on the final play of the half...

And that's the end of the half, as Garrett Wolfe sprints up the middle for a fruitless 25-yard gain since there was only five seconds left on the clock when that play was called ...

For what it's worth, they just announced in the press box that Benson is out for the game ...

Another three-and-out for Denver to start the third quarter. Aside from a few big plays, the Chicago defense has played pretty well today. The scoreboard doesn't reflect that, but Cutler has really struggled to find open receivers ...

Finally, Devin Hester shows us all why he's Devin Hester. Another lightning-strike punt return for a touchdown, this time from 75 yards out to bring the Bears even 13-13. Hester pulled a Bo Jackson after hitting the end zone, continuing his sprint straight through the field of play and into the Bears' tunnel ...

After Martinez fumbles the ensuing kickoff and almost gives the ball right back to the Bears, Tillman picks off Cutler on a throw intended for Marshall. That's his first interception of the year after tying for the team lead with five last season. Finally, signs of life from Bears fans along Lake Michigan ...

A third-down quarterback draw for Grossman? That curious call certainly caught everyone by surprise, including Grossman himself. After a replay challenge from Denver, the officials determine that he indeed fumbled the ball before hitting the ground and award possession back to the Broncos ...

Denver can't pick up a first down, so on comes Sauerbrun for his sixth punt of the day. Let's see how close this ball comes to Hester. After a great open-field tackle on the squirmy Hester, Grossman takes over at the Chicago 40 ...

That should have been a fresh set of downs and possibly a long pitch-and-catch, but Rashied Davis drops the ball right in the middle of the field. Maynard pins the Broncos back deep in their own territory again after a 45-yard punt and a 3-yard return by Martinez. Bears fans just take for granted how much of a weapon Hester is in the return game and his incredible impact on field position ...

Touchdown Broncos as Cecil Sapp leaps into the end zone around right end from five yards out. Denver murdered the Bears on the ground during that drive, getting two big runs from Hall that took advantage of first Anderson and then Brown. Cutler faked the quick handoff to his fullback up the middle and then pitched wide to Hall, but the Chicago D-ends kept buying the fake and were in no position to stop Hall as he scampered toward the sideline ...

Well, so much for that. Hester just tied the game again with yet another touchdown, this time on an 88-yard kickoff return. I swear, all these coaches are absolute morons. This Bears offense has continually proven that they're incapable of driving 60 yards consistently in any game this season, so kick the ball out of bounds and give them possession at the 40-yard line every time because Hester is the only guy on the roster who can make a game-changing play. It's just baffling to me ...

To quote the legendary, Vince Lombardi, "What the hell's going on out there?!" Cutler just torched Ricky Manning Jr., who's starting at corner today in place of rookie Trumaine McBride, for a 68-yard touchdown to Marshall. Denver again takes a seven-point lead with a 15-second drive, 27-20 with 2:11 left in the third quarter ...

Davis returns the ensuing squib kick all the way to midfield, but from Denver's perspective, that's a lot better than looking at the back of Hester's jersey for a third time. As you'd expect, Grossman can't get anything going. And for good measure, Miller is whistled for a 15-yard facemask penalty to add to his ever-growing list of mistakes ...

And that's the end of the third quarter, Denver leading a wild one 27-20 ...

Archuleta is the Bears bust of the year, as he gives up a 41-yard completion to tight end Tony Scheffler down the right sideline. Once Cutler recognized the man-to-man coverage, he attacked Archuleta immediately. Four plays later Cutler hits Scheffler in the end zone on a ridiculous juggling catch for a 34-20 Broncos advantage ...

That's the third turnover of the day for Grossman as he fumbles the ball away on a sack. Half the crowd is heading for the exits right now, and the other half is shouting "OR-TON!" at the top of their lungs. What a debacle as the Broncos take over at the Chicago 36 ...

Just before the snap on the Denver punt, Tillman left the gunner on the right side and crept down toward the end of the line. He is able to come free off the edge, blocking Sauerbrun's punt. Chicago gets a second life as Grossman comes back on the field with the ball at the Broncos' 18 ...

Touchdown Bears as Peterson plows into the end zone from four yards out amongst a crowd of blockers and tacklers. After Gould's extra point, it's a one-possesson game again at 34-27. Cutler has been hot in the second half, so the Chicago D needs a stop and needs it in a hurry ...

Ogunleye continues his huge season with another sack of Cutler, his second of the day. 4th-and-17 for the Broncos as Hester might get a chance to work his one-of-a-kind magic once again. After a timeout so Shanahan can get a little extra time to think about it, Hester is fortunate to retain possession after Sauerbrun's punt bounces off his leg ...

"This is the two-minute warning" ...

Touchdown Bears as Berrian makes a sensational catch in the back-right corner of the end zone against All-Pro Champ Bailey. Grossman unsuccessfully tried to hit Berrian on the slant from the left side on 3rd-and-goal at the 3-yard line, so they went for the slant-and-go from the right side on fourth down. The play was reviewed, but one knee equals two feet in this league and the touchdown call is upheld. What a ballgame this turned out to be after the stinkfest we saw in the first half. It's 34-34 with just 28 ticks left on the clock in regulation ...

And that's the end of the fourth quarter, sports fans, but overtime looms ...

On the first play of overtime, Grossman throws a gutsy over-the-top pass to Desmond Clark for a huge 39-yard gain. After five straight runs by Peterson and a kneel-down from Grossman to get the ball in the middle of the field, Gould comes out for a potential game-winning 39-yard field goal attempt. The kick is good, and the Bears win 37-34 in improbable fashion as Soldier Field erupts in jubilation ...

Be sure to visit BearReport.com for all the analysis, all the insight, and all the latest from Chicago as the Bears turn into the cardiac kids and rescue their playoff hopes yet again to move to 5-6 on the season.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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