Big stop lifts Bears over Eagles

SportsFootballChicago BearsPhiladelphia EaglesCharles TillmanBrian UrlacherDonovan McNabb

There was no need for an impromptu pep talk from Mike Brown or Brian Urlacher, no need for Lovie Smith to be anything but his typically reserved self.

The Bears' defense knew what was at stake as their grasp on a four-point lead Sunday night started to slip away. Here it was, fourth-and-goal for the Eagles from inside the 1-yard line with 3 minutes 40 seconds left in the game.

One stop would square the Bears' record at 2-2 in an uneven season. One stop and those blown leads from the previous two weeks would become a memory.

As Eagles running back Correll Buckhalter took the handoff from Donovan McNabb, a swarm of Bears engulfed him, Alex Brown getting there first off the edge. The stop helped the Bears hang on for a 24-20 victory at Soldier Field.

"What was going through my mind? Everything that was going through everybody else's mind—make a play," Brown said. "You've got to make plays within a scheme of the defense. I was fortunate to have my name called on that one, fortunate to make a play.

"But we had some guys that came up and hit him from out of the end zone. So it wasn't just me, it was the whole defense. We made a play."

The Bears survived four turnovers and a dismal second-half offensive showing, failing to make a first down in the third quarter. Kyle Orton threw a career-high three touchdown passes, completing 18 of 34 for 199 yards with two interceptions. Rookie running back Matt Forte managed just 43 yards on 19 carries but saved his best for last with a 10-yard run on third-and-7 that allowed the Bears to run another two-plus minutes off the clock, leaving McNabb just 17 seconds.

And Devin Hester shook off torn cartilage in his ribs to score the go-ahead touchdown on a 20-yard finger-tip reception.

But it was the defense that atoned the most a week after letting Brian Griese throw the ball all over the field. Playing without Tommie Harris (knee) for the whole game and losing Charles Tillman late to a shoulder injury, the Bears found a way to slow down McNabb. A blitzing, harassing defensive effort helped preserve the lead built by Orton's strong first-half showing.

"We're supposed to close out games when we get a lead," Urlacher said. "Tonight we took care of business when we had to."

Defense led to the Bears' first score. A blitzing Danieal Manning combined with Adewale Ogunleye to sack McNabb on the Eagles' first series — the Bears' first sack in 72 pass attempts dating to the Panthers game. The third-down play allowed the Bears to start their initial drive from their own 41.

It took Orton three plays to capitalize, starting with a 34-yard completion to Rashied Davis. He then hit Forte for 6 yards, setting up a 19-yard TD pass to Greg Olsen, who streaked down the right side ahead of Eagles linebacker Chris Gocong.

As quickly as the Bears scored, the Eagles responded, McNabb marching them 74 yards in eight plays and threading the needle on a 22-yard touchdown strike to rookie DeSean Jackson. The ball sailed barely beyond the reach of Urlacher and Brown.

Jackson's fumbled punt in the second quarter set up the Bears' second score. Linebacker Nick Roach recovered the muffed punt at the Eagles' 24-yard line. Two plays later, Orton found Marty Booker for a 23-yard touchdown.

The Bears' 14-7 lead was short-lived. McNabb calmly guided the Eagles on a five-play, 67-yard drive, ending in Buckhalter's 1-yard blast. McNabb had three passes of 16 yards or better on the drive, including a 31-yard completion to Reggie Brown.

Philadelphia had a chance to move ahead before halftime. The Bears faced third-and-12 from the Eagles' 49 when Orton dropped back and was drilled by Juqua Parker, the ball floating into the hands of Darren Howard.

But the Eagles went three-and-out, and David Akers missed a 50-yard field goal. Akers also missed a 47-yarder in the third quarter.

The Bears didn't squander their final first-half chance. Orton directed a nine-play, 60-yard march ending with his 20-yard TD strike to Hester. The receiver/return specialist got behind All-Pro cornerback Asante Samuel, who slipped. Hester looked fluid and comfortable as he stretched for the pass, showing no signs of the rib injury that kept him out last week.

vxmcclure@tribune.com

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