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Anderson steals show as Bears tip Dolphins
Fast-forward your VCRs to late in the second quarter of Saturday night's Bears-Miami preseason game.
Neal Anderson's scintillating 68-yard pass reception and run was clearly the highlight of an otherwise mundane scrimmage won by the Bears 10-6 in front of 56,449 fans at Soldier Field.
There was more activity in the stands than on the field in the second half as mesmerized fans resorted to the Wave.
Bears coaches hopefully gleaned considerable information about their roster candidates as the club improved to 2-0.
"I was encouraged with some of the things I saw in the first half. The second half, what can you say? Both teams didn't play very well," said Bears coach Mike Ditka.
"We probably took a very, very short step forward. Hopefully, we can get ourselves untracked. We will go back to work Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and see if we can get ready for Phoenix (Saturday)."
The Dolphins won most of the statistical categories, giving Miami coach Don Shula reason for encouragement.
Maurice Douglass, starting at left cornerback in place of Donnell Woolford (strep throat) returned an interception 60 yards to set the Bears up for their first score.
Dan Marino's pass intended for tight end Ferrell Edmunds appeared to be tipped by linebacker Ron Rivera. The ball deflected into the arms of Douglass, who pursued a sideline path to the Dolphins' 9-yard line.
A holding penalty on Dolphins cornerback Michael McGruder gave the Bears a first down on the 4 just before the first quarter came to a close.
Following two negligible rushes by Anderson and an incomplete pass intended for Scott Williams in the end zone, the Bears wound up with a 26-yard field goal from Kevin Butler.
Linebacker Mickey Pruitt later added the Bears' second interception.
The Dolphins took a 6-3 lead following a 10-play, 63-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Dan Marino (7 of 13 for 83 yards) to Mark Duper. Douglass was whistled for holding Duper on the play, and the Dolphins naturally declined the penalty.
"We have been able to limit the big plays. We only made the one, and the guy (Douglass) slipped on that," said Ditka.
Pete Stoyanovich's try for the extra point caromed off the right upright and the Dolphins' lead remained 6-3 with 8 minutes 22 seconds left in the half.
Jim Harbaugh relieved starter Mike Tomczak with 38 seconds left in the half and promptly tossed a short screen pass to Anderson, who maneuvered 68 yards for a touchdown. Butler added the conversion to give the Bears a 10-6 lead.
"With 20 seconds left, I'm expecting a prevent defense," said Anderson. "They basically overran the play. The linebacker who was covering me overpursued, and then I was able to make a couple of nice moves and take it all the way. I was able to make a couple of dips inside and help my blockers who were downfield.
"Nobody quit on the play. Some of the guys way downfield could have quit, but as I was going downfield, I still had blockers in front of me. That was good to see."
Harbaugh's toss to Anderson was probably the shortest 68-yard touchdown pass he has ever thrown.
"I think it might have been. That's why he is being paid $1.6 million," said Harbaugh. "You try to get the ball in his hands. That was a phenomenal run. I will be excited to see that on the replay.
"I thought Miami was going to play man-to-man under and two-deep safeties. I was kind of hoping he would get maybe 20 yards on it."
Harbaugh started the second half at quarterback and wound up completing 4 of 8 passes for 107 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked once. Tomczak finished his outing 10 of 15 for 92 yards
Stoyanovich failed on a 43-yard field-goal attempt late in the third quarter after a Dolphins' drive stalled on the 26. Miami had advanced to the 10 before a holding penalty on center Bert Weidner nullified a TD pass from Scott Secules to tight end Brian Kinchen. A delay of game penalty pushed the Dolphins back to the 26 before Stoyanovich misfired.
Bears rookie quarterback Peter Tom Willis (3 of 7 for 50 yards), who joined his teammates in camp last Wednesday after a two-week contract holdout, entered the game with 11:14 left. On his second play from scrimmage, Willis was sacked by three Dolphins for a 9-yard loss.
"Even when Jim Harbaugh was in there some and Peter Tom was in there, we just didn't give them time to do anything," said Ditka. "They really took their life in their own hands. We've got to play a lot better.
"We missed Jim Covert (tendinitis in his knee) and we missed Wendell Davis (sore legs), and of course, on defense we didn't have Donnell Woolford. We had a lot of people missing, but that is still no excuse.
"I don't think you can expect a whole lot when you play as many people as we played and make as many mistakes as we made. Of course, when you comeaway with a win, it is important. There were a lot of good plays out there, and nobody quit playing."
The Bears won their fourth straight preseason game against the Dolphins (0-1).
"That would have been a good one to pull out at the end," said Shula. "We had the drive going, and we didn't pull out the plays. They blitzed us on the last play, and we didn't do a good job of reading the blitz and getting rid of the football."