The Bears swear they never lost faith in their ability to overcome offensive adversity and a large deficit Monday night.
But a lot had to happen from the final play of the first half, when Neil Rackers' 28-yard field goal gave the Cardinals a 20-0 lead Monday night, until the Arizona kicker hooked a 40-yard attempt wide left, to allow the Bears to escape the desert with their perfect record intact.
At halftime defensive coordinator Ron Rivera lit into his whiny players, and team leaders like center Olin Kreutz spoke up.
Linebacker Brian Urlacher reassured head coach Lovie Smith throughout the second half that there was enough time left to pull off a miracle, and then the Bears' defense and special teams outscored the Cardinals' offense 21-3 in the second half to make it happen.
"It wasn't that bad," Rivera said of his halftime lecture, stretching credibility. "But my mom shouldn't hear about that stuff. It was tough. I got on them pretty good and challenged them, and they responded."
Rivera, who calls the defenses from up in the skybox area, wasn't pleased with what he heard coming from the sideline while he was conversing with assistants during the first half.
"I was disappointed with the way we came out (to start the game)," Rivera said. "The thing that was really disappointing, and I could hear it through the coaches' headsets, was that we were kind of (arguing) with each other on the sideline. I just told them, ‘Stop complaining about everybody else, and think about yourself and do your own job,' and they came out and did exactly what we asked."
Mike Brown's three-yard touchdown return of a fumble caused on a sack by Mark Anderson got the Bears to within 23-10. Charles Tillman's 40-yard touchdown return of a fumble caused by Urlacher made it 23-17, and Devin Hester's 83-yard punt-return touchdown with 2:58 won it.
"It wasn't fun at halftime," said Urlacher, whose 25 tackles were a career best. "But at the same time coaches were telling us to pick it up, they never made us think we were down. Even at halftime, we never felt like we were going to lose the game."
Even before he forced the fumble that led to Tillman's score with 5:00 left, Urlacher was confident of the outcome.
"In times like that, you need your best players to step up, and Brian did that," Smith said. "Brian was one of the guys I was talking to quite a bit. You get confidence that we're going to pull it out when you have guys on the field saying, ‘We have time still. We're going to do it.' "
Kreutz said there wasn't anything unusual about the halftime talk from himself and others, just things that needed to be said.
"It wasn't just me talking at halftime," the five-time Pro Bowler said. "Everybody was talking, and all we said was, ‘Let's play; let's keep going.' That's all we did. We were only down 20, and we're averaging 30 points a game. We thought we had a chance. We didn't think we were going to win like that, but we did."
Kreutz had one basic thought when he saw Hester burst through the first wave of Cardinals tacklers and into the open field, and he kept thinking it throughout the return.
"We all know how fast he is, so the first thing I thought was, ‘He's gone,'" Kreutz said. "And then I thought, ‘Holy (cow), he's gone.' "
Harry Caray couldn't have said it better.
"Defensively we (had) talked about not scoring," coach Lovie Smith said. "We needed three touchdowns to come back. They were ready to do that."
The third score came on Devin Hester's 83-yard punt return, but fumble returns of three yards by Mike Brown and 40 yards by Charles Tillman accounted for the first two touchdowns.
"This season we haven't had to make as many plays because our offense has scored so many points," said Brian Urlacher, who forced the fumble that Tillman scored with. "They struggled (Monday) night. We stepped up when we had to. We know it's going to come down to that during the season; and they're going to have to make plays on some days, and they're going to.
"We don't lose confidence in them one bit. Sometimes they're going to struggle, and sometimes we're going to struggle."
Monday night's comeback might have been a bigger deal because of the national TV exposure and the fact that a lot of players throughout the league watch during prime time, but the victory didn't need a huge audience to be special, according to Bears quarterback Rex Grossman.
"It doesn't matter if it was in front of one person," he said. "That was an unbelievable football game."
BY THE NUMBERS: LB Brian Urlacher had 25 tackles Monday night against the Cardinals, including 12 solos, three tackles for loss, two QB hurries, two pass break-ups, and one forced fumble, which was returned for a touchdown.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've been around a lot of good defensive performances in my career, but the one that Brian Urlacher had Monday night was something special. That's what he's capable of doing." — Bears coach Lovie Smith on Urlacher's 19-tackle performance against the Cardinals.
Consider it a good news/bad news story.
The bad news for the Detroit Lions is that they will be without Pro Bowl tackle Shaun Rogers for the next four games. He has been suspended by the NFL after testing positive for a banned substance.
The good news for the Lions is that Rogers, who has battled weight problems and over-eating since he arrived in the NFL six years ago, apparently really does care about keeping his weight under control. It was an appetite suppressant that got him in trouble with the NFL.
Rogers has not been accessible to the media since the suspension came to light Tuesday but his agent, Kennard McGuire, told the Detroit Free Press that Rogers made an honest mistake when he bought an over-the-counter dietary supplement to help him combat his late-night eating habits and also sleep apnea.
"It was a combination of things that led to him going through the process," McGuire said. "He wanted to make sure that he kept his weight and everything under control. He took an over-the-counter GNC supplement that he was really unaware was one of the forbidden substances."
The four-game suspension means that Rogers will miss the Lions' games against the New York Jets, Atlanta, San Francisco and Arizona. He will be eligible to return for the Thanksgiving Day game against Miami.
And, while he will be missed, coach Rod Marinelli preferred not to make his absence a major issue.
"Sometimes there is a stone in my shoe, sometimes there's a rock in my shoe," Marinelli said. "I took the rock out of my shoe and put it right there. I said, ‘(That's) the problem, but it's over here and we can't deal with it now so I'm going over here and I'm going to work with these guys. That's how I do business."
In other words, the Lions will get by without Rogers one way or the other.
The absence of Rogers leaves the Lions without one of the NFL's most dominating defensive linemen, although he did not always play up to his reputation.
After two quarterback sacks in the season opener against Seattle this year, Rogers dropped back under the radar, making only occasional plays against constant double teams. He re-surfaced in the 20-17 victory over Buffalo last Sunday (the Lions' first win of the season) with an outstanding performance that included a sack.
The Lions already were playing without defensive tackle Shaun Cody, who is out indefinitely with a dislocated left big toe and with Rogers out for four games, they will have a serious challenge putting together an effective defensive line.
Coach Rod Marinelli already had juggled his personnel up front, moving Rogers from under tackle to nose tackle and moving Cory Redding from left end to under tackle. It appears now that Redding will stay at the under tackle, playing beside Marcus Bell on the nose. That leaves Marinelli with two players to rotate in at tackle and end — Jared DeVries and Tyoka Jackson.
McGuire said Rogers will spend his four weeks of suspension taking care of a knee injury that has bothered him since training camp.
SERIES HISTORY: 11th game in the series, with the Lions holding a 6-4 advantage. The Lions are 2-0 in games against the Jets played at the Meadowlands but the Jets won the most recent game between the two teams, 31-14, at Ford Field four years ago.
Quarterback Jon Kitna was asked if he felt the league's rules governing over-the-counter medication or supplements are too strict.
"I don't know that it's too stringent nowadays in sports with all the steroids and that stuff," Kitna said. "You want to make sure you have a clean game. Unfortunately, I think some guys take the fall that maybe aren't necessarily trying to skirt the rules but on the basis of each case — case by case — how do you know? The rules are the rules."
Tight end Marcus Pollard was not critical of the NFL rules but noted that it is frequently next to impossible to know what is actually included in some of the over-the-counter supplements that players ingest.
"Most guys assume that it's safe if you buy it over the counter," Pollard said. "You're not going to some dark alley picking something up. Most guys will assume it's pretty safe."
And he said the list of banned substances that is available to players isn't very helpful.
"You can't read it," he said. "It's in Greek. If they had on the bottle what it's called in the bottle and this stuff is in this bottle, it would make it easy. They don't tell you the product; they just tell you the ingredients."
Instead, fellow defensive lineman Cory Redding — this week's defensive line spokesman — talking about it briefly.
"James Hall had one heck of a game and that's a reflection of our d-line," Redding said. "That's a reflection of our captains, our whole team. Whenever you have guys making big plays like that, that's a tribute to everybody because everything worked at that particular time for him to have a sack or for him to have big tackles.
"Whenever James Hall has a great play, we all have a great play. We pat him on the back, we have fun with it this week and we're moving on with it."
Hall was credited with eight tackles and 3.5 sacks against the Bills.
He was asked how tough it was getting out of bed Monday morning.
"It wasn't easy at all," Williams said. "As a matter of fact, I sat up, caught a cramp in my right hamstring. Stretched that out. Laid back down.
"Pulled my legs out of the bed. Stood up. Cracked my back. Took a step. Sat back down on the bed. Got up, wiggled my legs and went to the bathroom."
BY THE NUMBERS: 44 — Number of penalties against the Lions in the first six games of the season. Only Washington and St. Louis, with 45 each, have more penalties. The Lions 44 penalties have cost them 371 yards, the fourth-most in the NFL. Washington (419), Philadelphia (376) and St. Louis (375) have more penalty yards.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm a Gatorade and water guy, and I take Flintstones vitamins." — Tight end Marcus Pollard on whether he takes dietary supplements or vitamins that might contain banned substances.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
The fallout from Tuesday's decision by the league to suspend receiver Koren Robinson without pay for a year after his third violation of the substance-abuse policy was tangible on the practice field Wednesday.
On one side of quarterback Brett Favre was Ruvell Martin, a first-year player with no NFL catches. On the other was Chris Francies, an undrafted rookie just promoted from the practice squad.
"It makes it more difficult; I'm not going to lie to you," Favre said afterward. "But, it's the way the game is. It's not an excuse."
Fortunately for Favre and the fortunes of a 1-4 team that plays at Miami on Sunday, Donald Driver and impressive rookie Greg Jennings are mainstays on the field. More than ever, Favre will need them to produce because there's great uncertainty in reserve.
The learning curve for Martin and Francies is being expedited this week with the hope that one or both of them can take the Dolphins' undivided attention off Driver and Jennings.
"It becomes more difficult," Favre said, "because from a schematic standpoint when you're playing us, you go, ‘OK, we're shutting down Driver and Greg and force ‘em to beat us elsewhere, until they prove they can run the ball and beat us. They have to prove that they can do that. Otherwise, we're going to load up on those two guys.'"
Martin made the active roster out of training camp but hasn't had the opportunity to contribute on offense until now. He won over the new coaching staff with his imposing 6-foot-4, 217-pound size that creates coverage mismatches, particularly in the red zone.
Francies was under consideration for the 53-man roster at the end of the preseason. He plays big as well at 6-1, 193 and has "tremendous upside," head coach Mike McCarthy said. Francies, though, isn't refined beating the jam.
For the here and now, McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson will live with the growing pains at yet another position. They've had to endure Robert Ferguson's possible season-ending loss to a foot injury and now the removal of Robinson until next September.
"Those guys will do fine," Favre said of the unlikely replacements. "Greg and Donald really have been the production guys right now. Koren was starting to fit in. Robert got hurt early. We just can't afford to lose any more."
The organization braced itself for the other shoe that ultimately dropped on Robinson this week. The threat of the substantial punishment came with the two-year deal to which the team signed the talented, but troubled receiver/kick returner after Week 1.
That the Packers were able to get four games out of Robinson, who was arrested in August for another alleged drunken-driving incident while playing for Minnesota at the time, was perhaps more than they bargained for.
McCarthy said Wednesday there was no buyer's remorse.
"There's a personal side to this business and obviously a professional side," he said. "From a professional standpoint, we knew the risk that we were taking; it was calculated. And, the worst scenario happened. But, we knew what the possibilities were.
"From a personal standpoint, I think he's a young man that made a mistake. I think he has a bright future. He's in the process of trying to correct his mistakes. I clearly do not think it was a mistake at all (to sign him). His experience here was very positive."
It's unclear whether the Packers will honor the final year of the contract and have Robinson back when he's eligible to be reinstated by the league Sept. 18. Robinson is banned from the team's facilities, and the club isn't allowed to initiate contact with him.
"I hope he comes back," Favre said. "I think the sky's the limit for the guy. I hope he can stay straight."
Having just spent the team's bye last weekend in Miami, where he went to college, tight end Bubba Franks said the players who are becoming accustomed to throwing on a winter jacket in Green Bay will be in for a climate shock.
"You're just going to have to suck it up and go because you're not going to be able to breathe by the time you get off the plane," Franks said. "It's kind of like our elements ... ours are cold, and theirs are hot. So, you go from one extreme to the other.
"You're just going to have to adjust somewhere in the game, get hydrated, get plenty of fluids and get ready for a barnburner."
The team's medical staff has been imploring the players to drink fluids regularly throughout the week and has a fruit table stationed near the locker room.
Miami is the warm-weather locale that has given Green Bay the most trouble. The Packers have never beaten the Dolphins in six tries on the road.
Temperature at kickoff for Green Bay's last game at Miami was 81 degrees in late October 2000. The Packers had a meltdown, squandering a 17-0 lead and losing 28-20.
Green Bay, though, has had moderate success when the heat is literally on it. The Packers have won six of 11 games with the temperature 80 or above since Brett Favre took over as quarterback early in the 1992 season.
Their one win came in Super Bowl II at the Orange Bowl, a 33-14 rout of the Oakland Raiders on Jan. 14, 1968. Game-time temperature was 68.
The game was Vince Lombardi's last as head coach in Green Bay.
Favre's only other appearance was the game in 2000, two years after the movie was released.
BY THE NUMBERS: 7 — Teams that Green Bay has never beaten on the road in their existing location. They are Miami (0-6), Denver (0-5), Buffalo (0-4), the New York Jets (0-4), Indianapolis (0-3), Baltimore (0-1) and Tennessee (0-1).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You can't grab a guy by the shoulder pads, but you can grab a guy by the hair? That's a little wishy-washy." — Dreadlocks-wearing CB Al Harris in response to Kansas City's Larry Johnson tackling Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu by pulling at his long hair after Polamalu had an interception last Sunday.