Odd moves perfect Rx

The Football Doctor finally wrote the Bears a prescription for a win Sunday: Take two aspirin and call me in the Mornhinweg.

With Detroit Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg providing opportunities to get healthy after eight straight losses, the Bears avenged an overtime loss last month in Detroit with a 20-17 overtime victory before a crowd of 50,643 at Memorial Stadium.

"We're a team that knows you have to play 60 minutes to win," guard Chris Villarrial said. "Sometimes you have to play 66."

The Bears (3-7) did it with quarterback Jim Miller coming off the bench after starter Chris Chandler went out with a high ankle sprain in the third quarter, guiding the offense to 10 fourth-quarter points. Those came on a 23-yard touchdown pass to Dez White, who recorded his first career 100-yard receiving day, followed by a 22-yard field goal by Paul Edinger to tie the game as time expired.

Edinger, who beat the Lions (3-7) with a last-second field goal in the final game of 2000, won the game with a 40-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime.

"You know, they've worked so hard and gotten nothing to show for it," said coach Dick Jauron, whose team was within seconds of becoming the first Bears team to lose nine straight games. "I'm so happy for them. I'm certainly glad [the loss record] isn't the 2002 team's résumé."

All that would not have been possible without the help of Mornhinweg, who helped keep his string intact of never winning a road game in 14 tries as Detroit's head coach. And after a two-month run of futility, when the Bears were given an opportunity Sunday, they made something of it.

Mornhinweg had the Lions take the 17 m.p.h. north wind and give the Bears the ball first in overtime, figuring his defense could hold and give his offense and kicker Jason Hanson the chance to win the game. Curious decision: His defense wasn't particularly stopping anyone at that point. The Bears had just finished driving 91 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown and 43 yards in 10 plays for the tying field goal.

"I think it is really hard to turn the ball down in overtime," Jauron said. "I know we talked about it long and hard on our sideline."

It was a decision that ignored history. Since kickoffs were moved from the 35-yard line to the 30 in 1994, teams that won the toss in overtime—and in virtually all cases elected to receive— have won 60 percent of the time. And it was a decision that just made the Bears mad. Safety Mike Brown pointed out to the offense after the coin toss that the Lions had totally disrespected the Bears' offense. "We took it personally," said center Olin Kreutz.

"They're telling us their defense is going to shove it down our throats and that got guys angry and wanting to prove something to everybody."

After Ahmad Merritt returned the Detroit kickoff from two yards deep in the end zone out to the Bears' 35, Miller came into the huddle and made a simple statement to his teammates: "Give me time and I'll get us down the field."

He shook off a sack and completed passes of 15 yards to running back Leon Johnson and 14 yards to wide receiver Marty Booker, who had a game-high 157 yards, for first downs.

On third-and-8 at Detroit 35, Miller's pass to tight end Dustin Lyman was incomplete, which would have forced the Bears to punt since a 52-yard field goal into the wind was too far for Edinger to attempt.

But left tackle Mike Gandy was called for holding and Mornhinweg accepted the penalty , moving the Bears back 10 yards but giving them another down.

"I wanted them to have no or little opportunity to make a field goal, so I backed them up," Mornhinweg said. "And again I had confidence in our defense to go in and make a play."

Instead it was Miller, completing 21-of-35 passes for 250 yards in the game, his offensive line and receivers who made the plays. A 15-yard throw to Booker on third-and-18 moved the ball to the Detroit 30 where, on fourth-and-3, Miller connected with White for five yards and a first down. Three runs by Leon Johnson moved the ball to the 22 and Edinger completed the comeback for the Bears' first win in three overtime games this season.

Teammates grabbed Edinger and put him on their shoulders in what for them was a long-overdue celebration.

"We can exhale now," said cornerback R.W. McQuarters, whose first interception of the season set up the Bears' first TD on a 3-yard Chandler-to-Marcus-Robinson pass in the second quarter. "It's great. We probably sound like we just won the conference or something, but that's how it feels to us."

The Bears' offense, which had struggled through eight straight weeks of failing to reach 300 yards, gained 177 yards and scored three times on its final three possessions. Miller's 250 passing yards is the Bears' third-highest total of the season.

"It can be a mental block when you're losing and get thinking that we're going to screw things up," Miller said. "It feels great to win. We were still making some of the same mistakes as we have in the past, but we overcame them today."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Comments
Loading