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To hear David Terrell echo the beliefs of his teammates on the way off the field Sunday after a rousing 28-21 victory over the New York Giants, if the Bears can make it here, they can make it anywhere.
"We're right back in it, we're right back in it," Terrell shouted after the Bears made the home team look as feeble as the visitors to Giants Stadium were perceived before the game.
Despite an apparent rib injury to unbeaten rookie quarterback Craig Krenzel that required postgame X-rays, the Bears (3-5) headed home believing a defense that created five turnovers could carry them back into playoff contention.
Whether Krenzel will be healthy enough next weekend at Tennessee to try to win his third straight NFL start remained unclear Sunday night. He winced as he buttoned his shirt in the locker room, and the Bears made him unavailable for comment.
But more than one giddy player mentioned the Lions' loss to Washington and the Vikings' penchant for late-season collapses in the context of their freshly reshaped goals.
"It's a long seasontwo halves, four quarters," Terrell said. "Detroit and Minnesota jumped out quick in the first half, so it's our time to go out quick. It's going to be us."
Using an us-vs.-them approach helped coach Lovie Smith get the Bears revved up to dominate the Giants (5-3). With articles he considered derogatory and TV commentators he heard pick the Giants, Smith let the media deliver his Rockne speech for him.
"We'll use any motivational tool we can get," Smith said. "This is not an upset to them in there. We're a good football team."
It did not look that way after the Giants took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on two Tiki Barber touchdown runs and had a third Barber TD nullified by a holding penalty.
Then the Bears assumed control of the game in what seemed like a New York minute. Actually, it took 5 minutes 48 seconds to go from a 14-0 deficit to a 17-14 lead.
"It snowballed," Smith said.
The roll began with 6:02 left in the second quarter when the Bears, down 14-0, called a timeout at their 37-yard line after consecutive false-start penalties on linemen Olin Kreutz and Ruben Brown.
As the offense seemed at its discombobulated worst on the field, the defense hung its collective head on the sideline. Defensive backs coach Vance Bedford called the unit together on the bench and challenged the group in his own inimitable way.
"He just told us we were better than that, forget about it and play ball," said defensive end Alex Brown, who had four of the defense's seven sacks.
Back on the field, the offense rehuddled and regrouped. Krenzel hit Terrell for a 28-yard completion and followed that with a beauty of a throw to rookie Bernard Berrian for a 35-yard touchdown.
"Sometimes that's all you need, a big play and a little success to keep going to break that rhythm of three-and-out," offensive tackle John Tait said.
The defense fed off that energy. Three plays into the Giants' next possession, safety Mike Green recovered an Ike Hilliard fumble he forced to give the Bears the ball back on the New York 29.
Two plays and an unnecessary-roughness penalty later, Anthony Thomas scored the first of his two TDs on a 4-yard run to tie it.
"We weren't going to lie down," Green said. "Every day it's turnovers, turnovers. Lovie's got that stuck in our heads."
Apparently so. On the Giants' first play of the ensuing drive, Green loudly separated receiver Amani Toomer from the ball, and rookie Nathan Vasher picked off the deflection for his third interception of the season. He returned it to the 4, but the Bears had to settle for the first of two Paul Edinger field goals before halftime.
After a first-down sack, a usually reserved Tait gestured angrily at the sideline as if to say, "Let's run the ball!"
Asked what message he was trying to send, Tait smiled and said, "I can't remember."
"Our defense played so great that they don't deserve field goals, they deserve touchdowns," Tait said.
That was one of the few complaints after an offensive flurry that produced more points in half of a quarter (20) than the Bears had scored in four separate games.
"The game changed because of the Chicago Bears," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.
Smith agreed that the Giants did not give the game away as much as the Bears took it. Making sacks and creating turnovers worked for Smith in St. Louis, so the blueprint he used Sunday was familiar.
"The [Giants] didn't turn the ball overthey were takeaways as far as I'm concerned," Smith said. "You think of Chicago football, you think of running the ball and good, hard defense."
The running part of the equation came again from Thomas, who ran stronger with each series. Thomas outgained Barber with a 28-carry, 110-yard effort punctuated by a 41-yard TD sprint with 7:56 left that gave the Bears an insurance score they would need.
As for that good, hard defense, it applied more pass pressure than it has all season because of how well it stopped the run. Barber managed only 72 yards on 21 carries. The Giants ran for 91 overall.
The exclamation point for the Bears' run defense might have come when Tommie Harris and Michael Haynes stuffed Barber on fourth-and-1 late in the third quarter after the Giants had driven into Bears territory.
"That's the type of defense we're capable of playing week in and week out," Smith said.
A 29-yard punt return by Mark Jones down to the Bears' 11 with 2:23 left made the defense wait until the final ticks to relax. Kurt Warner, whom the Bears made look older than 33, hit tight end Jeremy Shockey for a 1-yard TD pass three plays later, and the lead was 28-21.
The Giants recovered an onside kick, but Adewale Ogunleye and Brown came up with big sacks and Vasher tipped away Warner's final pass to secure the win.
"They outplayed us," Giants guard Jason Whittle said, "all over the place."