(DETROIT, MI)--Thanks to a rookie's mistake, the Detroit Lions snatched victory away from the jaws of defeat. Jason Hanson's 48 yard field goal with 10:18 left in overtime gave the Lions a 23-20 win after Detroit nearly did the unthinkable.
With just :05 seconds left on the clock in regulation, Coach Marty Mornhinweg decided to try one last play to win the game. Just a play earlier, Lions rookie quarterback Joey Harrington failed to find a wide-open Cory Schlesinger uncovered in the end zone. Harrington was supposed to make a quick decision and throw it into the endzone, instead he hitched twice before being sacked by Bears linebacker Roosevelt Colvin.
But the play never happened.
Lions tight end Matt Murphy, in for his first game of the season, jumped offsides. The penalty stopped play, which meant the sack never happened. With a reprieve, the Lions kicked the game tying field goal, a 24-yarder by Hanson to set up his overtime heroics.
"He struggled, he struggled a litttle bit," said Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg of Harrington. "He did put together a fantastic drive at the end of the game to get down to the one foot line to tie it. Then our defense, a tremendous game, two turnovers, two touchdowns."
The Lions defense led by Luther Elliss and Chris Cash wreaked havoc in the Bears backfield. Elliss penetrated the Bears offensive front and forced a Anthony Thomas fumble at the Bears seven-yard line. Kelvin Pritchett recovered and carried the ball to the Bears one-yard line.
James Stewart, beginning a huge game, carried it in to give the Lions a 7-3 lead. Then Eric Davis, showing good instinct as a free safety, picked off a Chris Chandler pass intended for Dez White and returned it to the Chicago 14-yard line despite nearly fumbling it away.
Stewart again ran to paydirt from 1-yard out to give Detroit a 14-3 lead. But saavy veteran quarterback Chris Chandler, starting for the injured Jim Miller,led Chicago on a great two-minute drive that took momentum away from the Lions. Chandler hit Marty Booker with just :11 seconds left to cut the Lions lead to 14-10 at the half.
The Bears set the tone for a duel of running backs between Anthony Thomas and James Stewart by marching 75 yards on an eight play drive with Thomas going in from one yard out to give the Bears a 17-14 lead.
That's when it became apparent, it wasn't going to be Joey Harrington's day. Harrington, who was harassed and hit several times in the passing game by Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, was forced out of the pocket on a first-and-ten at the Detroit 48 and was sacked by Chicago's Brian Robinson. Harrington fumbled and the Bears recovered.
Chicago converted the turnover into a 42-yard Paul Edinger field goal to up their lead to 20-14.
That's when the Lions offensive staff decided to try a different tactic, run Stewart. "Joey came to me in the huddle and said 'It's on you', so I knew we were going to run the ball," said Stewart.
Stewart was ready and after an incompletion, he rushed for 66 yards on a 14-play drive that culminated in Jason Hanson's 30-yard field goal, cutting the Bears lead to 20-17. Stewart ended the game with a career high 172 yards rushing on 32 carries. His performance was the second-best in the NFL only to Marshall Faulk's 183 yard performance for the St. Louis Rams.
Detroit (2-4), who weathered Chicago's(2-4) run-oriented attack will now face the wide-open and resurgent Buffalo Bills (4-3) in New York next Sunday.