Bears get early Christmas present

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On a frigid Monday night at Soldier Field, the Bears playoff chances hung in the balance, as they would take on their hated NFC North rivals, the Green Bay Packers in front of a sellout crowd of 61,500.

On a frigid Monday night at Soldier Field, the Bears playoff chances hung in the balance, as they would take on their hated NFC North rivals, the Green Bay Packers in front of a sellout crowd of 61,500.

The Packers (5-10) dominated most of Monday night’s game, out-gaining the Bears 221 yards to 48 in the first half and 291-92 through three quarters. But as was the case in Chicago’s last contest–a 27-24 overtime win over the New Orleans Saints Dec. 11 at Soldier Field–the offense woke from its slumber just in time. The Bears, down 14-3 at the half, would cap a miraculous comeback, starting with a Brad Maynard 42-yard punt that would land perfectly off the back of Green Bay’s special teams flanker Tramon Williams as the Bears would recover a fumble deep in Packers territory.

“My goal was to plant the kick deep in their (Packers) territory,” said Maynard. “Just so happen, we were able to get a break.”

After the kick, the Bears would score on a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Orton to tight end Greg Olsen that consisted of a drive of 5 plays, 27 yards in 2:04 seconds, trimming the Packers lead to 14-10 in the third.

After establishing great field position on an Orton interception, the Packers would take over in Bears territory but were unable to capitalize, as the Bears defense would hold them to a field goal in the fourth; giving the Packers a 17-10 lead.

“It was a big stop by our defense,” said Bears head coach Lovie Smith. “It felt good to only hold them to a field goal on that drive.”

After falling behind by seven, the cardiac Bears would have one last drive left in them, capped off by a 28-yard run by rookie running back Matt Forte.

“I wanted to give my team a chance to score,” said Forte. “I was able to get a full burst of speed after a nice block by my left tackle.”

The Bears would capitalize on Forte’s run, tying the game at 17-17, with an eight-play, 4:03, 51 yard drive, which was finished by a three-yard touchdown run by Forte for his eighth rushing touchdown of the season.

The Bears then made a special teams blunder during the kick-off, as running back Adrian Peterson was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for a horse collar tackle.

“I actually didn’t see the play,” Smith said. “We wanted the defense to have a chance to finish the game.”

The Packers would let Peterson off the hook as kicker Mason Crosby’s 38-yard field goal was blocked by Alex Brown, sending the game into overtime.

“Alex has come through for us all year long,” said Smith. “He just continues to make big plays.”

In overtime, it would be deja vu all over again for the Bears, winning the toss for the second week in a row, putting the game in the hands of “Mr. Gold Foot” Robbie Gould. Gould put the game away on a 38-yard field goal, doing the exact opposite of Crosby, giving the Bears a 20-17 victory in over-time.

“When the game is on the line like that,” Gould said, “the only thing that’s going through my mind is to follow through with my routine and make the kick.”

This game would mark the coldest ever played at Soldier Field since the NFL started recording temperatures in 1963. Game time temperatures fell to a frigid eight degrees with a wind-chill factor of 16 below zero.

The Bears (9-6) can win the NFC North next Sunday with a victory in Houston coupled with a Vikings loss to the Giants. Even if Minnesota wins, Chicago can make the playoffs as the NFC’s second wildcard with a victory along with losses by the Cowboys to the Eagles and the Buccaneers to the Raiders.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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