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It was not an artistic success. But it was a success just the same and as far as the Bears are concerned, that's enough for right now.
They made more mistakes than quality plays at several critical points Sunday yet escaped with a 14-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons (0-2) before a crowd of 68,081 in the Georgia Dome.
The Bears are 2-0 for the first time since 1991 and alone atop the NFC North Division after winning for the 12th straight time in games decided by a touchdown or less.
They won as Jim Miller threw 14 yards to David Terrell for the winning score midway through the third quarter and Anthony Thomas ran 3 yards for a score late in the second quarter. It was the second week in a row Terrell's only catch went for the game-winner.
When Jay Feely's potential game-winning field goal try from 45 yards with 56 seconds remaining sailed wide to the left, the Bears had the result they wanted, but far from the way they wanted to get it.
"When we hit the middle of our schedule," guard Chris Villarrial said, shaking his head, "we'd better not play like this."
The Bears had their chances to put away a team that dominated them early, then gradually slumped under a game plan that players privately said was too complicated.
Among their missed opportunities:
Paul Edinger hit the right upright with a 50-yard field goal try at the end of the first possession of the second half.
Dez White bobbled away a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Thomas fumbled when he was stripped of the ball at the Atlanta 16 in the third quarter.
Miller threw an interception after the Bears took possession at their 40 in the first quarter.
The Bears failed to convert a third-and-1 situation at their 35 with 2:31 to play, allowing the Falcons to get the ball back and eventually attempt a game-winning field goal.
"A win is a win and there'll be a handful that are ugly," said Miller, who completed 12-of-24 passes for 143 yards but reinjured his ankle and was limping after the game.
The Bears were thoroughly outplayed both offensively and defensively in the first half, yet trailed just 10-7. The offense managed only 99 total yards in the first half and 86 of those came on the only drive longer than three plays through the first two quarters. They did not record a first down until midway through the second quarter. For the game, nine of their 12 possessions ended with zero or one first down.
The defense, playing without injured defensive end Phillip Daniels and cornerback R.W. McQuarters, lost Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ted Washington to injury in the first half and allowed 179 yards to the Falcons, with Michael Vick accounting for 34 rushing and 94 passing.
But as has become their custom, the Bears simply beat an opponent into submission. They hit Vick repeatedly, drawing several roughness penalties, but began to sense that the Atlanta leader was slowing under the assault.
The Falcons, with rookie tailback T.J. Duckett mysteriously not playing in the second half, were limited to 78 total yards in the second half as the Bears methodically rushed for 73 yards in the half and took the game away from the Falcons.
"They were a good team with some really exceptional athletes," said Bears coach Dick Jauron. "They took us to the brink. I feel for them and their field goal kicker, but I am glad he missed it. It was a big win for us on the road."
The Falcons ran for 85 yards in the first half, but their only touchdown came on a pass play. They put up the game's first points when Vick isolated running back Warrick Dunn on linebacker Rosevelt Colvin for a 10-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter.
The Bears, inert until six minutes remained in the second quarter, drove 86 yards in 10 plays for their first score with Thomas carrying on five of the snaps.
Thomas went into the end zone behind crushing blocks on the center of the Atlanta line by guard Rex Tucker and center Olin Kreutz.
Atlanta went ahead 10-7 at halftime on a drive helped along with a roughing-the-passer penalty, as Feely converted from 37 yards as time expired.
The Bears took the lead for good when Miller found Terrell alone on a post pattern in the end zone. Special teams set up that touchdown with a fumble forced by Larry Whigham and recovered by Rabih Abdullah at the Atlanta 18.
But after the Bears scored, ex-Packer Travis Jervey gashed the Bears with a 67-yard kickoff return that turned into a 27-yard field goal by Feely that brought the Falcons to within 14-13.
The Bears departed from their usual wear-down strategy of running the ball early and it may have hurt their game.
The Falcons were without starting cornerback Ray Buchanan, suspended four games for a steroid violation, and the Bears immediately wentafter his replacement, Juran Bolden.
"We went after Bolden," Miller said. "We just didn't execute. It's not what they do; it's what we didn't do. I don't think we played particularly well the whole game."