Will 8-8 be enough to save Dick Jauron's job? Do the Bears even have a chance of winning in Kansas City next week? Will Rex Grossman become the real deal? Honestly, who knows? Right now it's the Washington Redskins, a team the Bears should beat and need to beat if they're going to get a chance for a valiant stand on the final day of the season in a week.
This week's story line is all about Rex Grossman and the formerly great coach Steve Spurrier, Grossman's college coach at Florida. Chances are Grossman will try to light up the team of the prickly, visor-wearing low-handicapper.
Welcome to this play-by-play. We'll have football shortly.
The Redskins win the toss and start at their own 20. Rock Cartwright runs twice to start things off and picks up 7 yards on his second effort. Tim Hasselbeck throws his first attempt and picks up where he left off last week when he had a 0.0 rating in a loss to the Cowboys. The Redskins punt, McQuarters makes a short return of it.
OK, Bears start just shy of midfield and Grossman looks for Justin Gage on a slant. Gage is hit and fumbles the ball back to the Redskins, ending, perhaps, the shortest possession ever.
It's safe to say Spurrier isn't going to let this guy fling the ball around. Hasselbeck hands to Cartwright twice to start the series. As scripted Hasselbeck's third-and-short toss is incomplete. Todd McMillon arrived a bit early there, but for the sake of moving this game along, we'll take the no-call. McQuarters lets Bryan Barker's punt land and it bounces to the 2.
Already this game is short on action and long on TV timeouts.
The Redskins jump and give the Bears some breathing room without even running an official play. And back we go. Grossman is flagged for a false start and we're back where we started. Thomas botches the handoff, falls on it and this game has all the makings of a really bad one. Stanley Pritchett dives into the pile and the Bears send in about 15 receivers for third down. Grossman's throw goes off Booker's out-stretched hand and right to Fred Smoot, who walks into the end zone. Replay coming as to whether Smoot was down. Much debate in the press box. I'll tell you replay really adds to the excitement of the game. Non-stop action. The play is over-turned. Redskins' ball at the 9.
Washington's possession is just a comedy of errors, too many to recount. Hasselbeck started things off by throwing the ball off the crossbar, then throws to his tight end, who had tripped, but Hasselbeck threw it anyway. Third down was just ugly. We'll spare you the details. The field goal is good, capping a four-play, 17-second, 0-yard drive. We can only hope Steve Sabol's guys are here to document all this.
Redskins 3, Bears 0
A Redskin got frisky with Jerry Azumah's facemask on the kickoff, so the Bears start at the 41. Grossman drops back on first down and throws deep to Booker. Touchdown. Fifty-nine yards. That was quick. Booker tried to leap into the crowd and had a little trouble. Grossman runs over and grabs the ball for the mantle. That's his first NFL TD pass and it was a nice one. Great throw.
Bears 7, Redskins 3
Hasselbeck actually completed a pass on the series, after starting 0-for-6. But it's short of the first and they'll punt again.
Grossman starts things off with a nice scramble and side-armed fling for 25 yards to Ahmad Merritt. Thomas runs twice and John Gilmore can't handle Grossman's third-down pass. He put a little too much on it. The Bears will go for it on 4th-and-2 at the Washington 41. Dez White comes around for a reverse and picks up 12 yards and the first. On a play-action, Grossman lofts one to Pritchett in the flat and he rumbles 17 yards down to the 1. From there, Pirtchett is stuffed, the Skins sniff out a pass play and then Booker is out of bounds in the back of the end zone. Paul Edinger kicks at 19-yard field goal.
Bears 10, Redskins 3
Hasselbeck completes two straight passes to cross midfield. Then they get tricky. Rod Gardner catches a long backwards screen and then throws a strike to Chad Morton for a touchdown.
Bears 10, Redskins 10
The Bears can't do anything with the ball, so they kick it back to the Redskins to see what they can do. Brad Maynard's punt takes a friendly Bears roll just inside the 5.
Cartwright runs three times and the Skins punt. McQuarters breaks a 32-yard return to the 28.
Grossman throws one for White in the end zone but Smoot makes a nice recovery and play to knock the pass down. Grossman is not shy, that's for sure. Thomas picks up 5 running left on second down. Bobby Wade catches a short pass underneath and falls forward for the first. Things fall apart there. Thomas picks up a few and then gets stuffed for a loss on second down. Grossman throws well short of the marker to Clark on third-and-9. John Shoop lives. Brad Maynard fails to spin the laces away on the field-goal attempt and it sails wide right.
The Redskins gets the ball back at the 20 and Bryan Robinson sacks Hasselbeck. Do not adjust your monitor. B-Rob got to the quarterback. Hasselbeck then hits Laveranues Coles on a 20-yard gain. Cartwright runs right and finally is nailed by Mike Brown. Where's he been all year? But a first down. Hasselbeck throws a rope down the middle to Darnerien McCants for 28 yards. That nice throw moves the ball to the 20. Mike Brown is called for illegal contact on the next play, a try in the end zone for Morton. Again things go badly quickly for Washington and they'll have to kick a field goal. It's wide right after a bad snap. There is a lot of bad symmetry to this game.
Bruce Smith sacks Grossman on first down for Smith's 200th career sack. Booker catches a short pass underneath. On third down the Redskins jump, making it 3rd and 4. Booker drops what would've been a sure first down. Punt.
All of a sudden Hasselbeck looks like John Elway running the two-minute drill, moving the Redskins down to the 12 with just over a minute remaining in the half. The Redskins call timeout. Morton takes a pitch and is dropped 2 yards deep in the backfield. Gardner is going to throw again, this time to Hasselbeck in the end zone, covered by Michael Haynes! Good lord. Refs say the ball hit the turf. Replays show otherwise. This one will be reversed. Walter Payton threw a touchdown pass to Jim McMahon years ago in the same end zone. Wow. Play stands. Brutal call. It doesn't matter because Coles catches a touchdown on the next play. Someone up here said the football gods took care of that.
Redskins 17, Bears 10
That's the half. Bring on the frisbee dogs.
Thomas runs right on first down for 6 yards; Pritchett left on second for 18. The protection breaks down and Grossman has to throw it away. After a short run by Thomas, Grossman finds Booker, who stretches for the first. Two Thomas runs bring up third-and-1 at the 24. Thomas does it himself, diving through the pile to get the first. Thomas picks up 3 more and then Grossman hits Gage for 12 yards. Thomas runs right and gets to the end zone but the Bears are called for illegal formation, making it first-and-goal from the 11. Grossman avoids a sack by throwing it away and then overthrows Pritchett. Grossman shows nice patience on third down and hits Gage underneath. Gage makes a couple of moves and scores. Rookie to rookie.
Bears 17, Redskins 17
The second-half Redskins look a lot like the first-half Redskins. They go three-and-out and punt. The Bears will start at their own 19.
Thomas runs left for 11 yards and then Pritchett picks up decent yardage on a fullback dive. Illegal use of the hands on the Skins adds 5 to the run and the ball's at the 40. Grossman swings one to Thomas on a bail out. The play gets 3 yards. Thomas runs for a yard on second down. Gage catches a short pass and takes a big shot. But he holds on and gets the first at the Washington 45. Thomas runs twice to bring up third down and then makes a nice play on a bullet from Grossman to keep his feet inbounds. Redskins will review the play, but it's not even close. Play stands. First down Bears at the Washington 29. Thomas picks up 16 yards on a counter. They had every single Redskin moving the wrong way there. Thomas gets a couple and then Pritchett goes the other way on a counter, getting close to the 3 and a first. Measurement says 1st-and-goal. Thomas goes up the middle for the touchdown.
Bears 24, Washington 17
With that run, Thomas has 100 yards on 21 carries.
Edinger's kickoff is fielded at the 35. No lie. This guy just gets worse kicking off each week. The Redskins run one play--a 3-yard run--before the quarter ends. Washington ran three or four plays all quarter. The Bears had the ball for 13:18 of that quarter.
Hasselbeck completes four straight passes, capped by a 19-yard pass to Coles for the touchdown. I guess they don't need to hold onto the ball for very long. Tie game. 63 yards in five plays.
Bears 24, Redskins 24
Thomas runs effectively, picking up 16 yards on one run and moving the Bears to midfield before Grossman hits a wide-open White for 21 yardes down to the 20. Thomas runs twice more for short yardage. Grossman overthrows White in the end zone on third down and Edinger will try a 33-yard kick, which is wide right. Serious shank there. It was even wide of the net.
Washington takes over the 20. Hasselbeck makes a nice throw to Coles on third down to keep the drive alive. Two Cartwright runs bring up third-and-1 at the 43. Hasselbeck keeps it himself and should have the first. Maybe. Not so sure now. He's short. And Washington will go for it. Tackle Derrick Dockery jumps and now they'll have to punt. McQuarters takes the punt back 11 yards to the 21.
Grossman throws incomplete on first down and hits Booker for 8 yards the next play. Thomas then picks up the first. Grossman's pass intended for Booker is nearly picked off by linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. Should've been picked off. David Terrell catches a pass for 22 yards to midfield. Thomas runs for 3 and that brings us to the two-minute warning. Thomas runs for about 2, short of the marker. The Bears will go for it on fourth-and-1. It's ahrd to tell but I guess he got it. Bears call timeout. White picks up 9 on a short pass and the Bears burn another timeout with 26 seconds on the clock and the ball on the Washington 28. Pritchett is dragged down at the line and no where near the sideline. What's up with that play? So here's Edinger on 3rd down with 10 seconds left to try a 45-yarder after missing two already today. Big wind, too. The Skins call timeout. The ball flutters and just barely clears the crossbar.
Bears 27, Redskins 24
That's it folks. The Bears move a game within .500. Feel the excitement.