Skip to content
Harbaugh cool with heat on
At long last, the Bears took the offensive, instead of simply looking offensive.
Taking an important step Sunday toward capturing their seventh NFC Central Division championship in the last eight years, the Bears (10-4) rewarded a Soldier Field crowd of 62,353 with a 27-13 triumph over those dastardly, yet fairly incompetent, Green Bay Packers, who sank to 3-11.
Rolling up their third-highest point total of the season, the Bears ended a troublesome two-game losing streak, handed coach Mike Ditka his 100th career regular-season victory and maintained their superior tiebreaker status over Detroit (10-4) for the division title.
But it wasn't as though the Packers didn't have their moments.
"I was feeling the heat a little bit and I was happy that I responded," said Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who had six turnovers in the Bears' Thanksgiving loss to the Lions. "I've played in a lot of pressure games, but this was one of the bigger ones."
The Bears jumped to a 7-0 lead with 4 minutes 33 seconds left in the first quarter when fullback Brad Muster (44 yards on nine carries) leaped over one tackler and strutted into the end zone from 8 yards out.
Kevin Butler, who had been listed as questionable last week with a sore hip, tacked on the extra point at the end of the 73-yard drive.
The TD was the Bears' first in seven quarters and 23 possessions.
The Bears handed the Packers a score minutes later when Johnny Bailey muffed Paul McJulien's punt and Blair Bush recovered at the Bears' 14 with 3:24 to go in the opening period.
"We'll work on it," said Ditka of Bailey's foible. "If you have any suggestions, help, because we have got people who write letters in. I mean, let them write them in. I mean, help us.
"(Bailey) took his eye off the ball. He made the most simple mistake you can make. I tell you, gang, I'm not going to criticize him. I'm not going to crucify him. I had my one week. Thanksgiving was my week. I'm done. He will be back there next week. If the wind is blowing, maybe Tommy Waddle will be back there."
The Bears' defense stiffened before relinquishing a 25-yard field goal by Chris Jacke to pull the Packers within 7-3.
Green Bay took advantage of another turnover to take a 10-7 lead with 9:23 to go in the second quarter.
Harbaugh was hit attempting to pass, and his floating toss was intercepted by cornerback Vinnie Clark, who returned the ball 20 yards to the Bears' 30.
Harbaugh completed 16 of 25 passes for 209 yards and two TDs. He had the one interception while being sacked twice.
"I thought Harbaugh did a heck of a job, gang, I'm sorry," Ditka said. "The interception came only because of the fact that he got blitzed and he got his arm hit as he released the ball. Other than that, I thought the guy played about as good as you could want him to play."
Former Bear Mike Tomczak (22 of 39 for 215 yards, one TD and one interception) directed the Packers on an eight-play march to the end zone that was capped by a 1-yard toss to a wide-open Jackie Harris in the end zone. Jacke's kick made it 10-7.
After a week of heated rhetoric between Tomczak and Harbaugh, the former rivals for the Bears' starting job shook hands at midfield at the end of the game and Harbaugh suggested the two "bury the hatchet."
"A lot of our players have a fond relationship with Mike Tomczak, and some of them don't," said Ditka. "I think more do than don't. So I think they have great respect for Mike. You have to play teams, not individuals. Mike is a very capable guy."
Responding to Green Bay's only TD of the day, the Bears retaliated with a 73-yard scoring drive that included a 12-yard pass to Anthony Morgan and a 15- yard roughing-the-passer penalty against the Packers' Robert Brown.
Harbaugh added a key third-down, 16-yard run to the Packers' 8. Two plays later, Muster rambled for his second TD, breaking three tackles en route to the end zone and a 14-10 lead.
"It was great to get into the end zone," said Harbaugh, who was without the services of star running back Neal Anderson, nursing a bad hamstring. "I think you have to give Brad Muster a lot of credit for the two runs he made.
"Had we had (Muster) the last two weeks, we wouldn't have been beaten at all. It was very important having him running the ball near the goal line."
Muster also caught two passes for 23 yards.
Rookie Darren Lewis replaced Muster in the fourth quarter and gained 10 yards on five carries.
"Brad's back tightened up. It wasn't his hamstring. So that is why he came out of the game," said Ditka. "I was glad to see Darren get in there and run some. I don't think anybody else got hurt. And that is the nice thing about winning. Usually nobody gets hurt when you win."
Tomczak coughed up the ball just moments after the Bears' second touchdown when his short pass was intercepted by linebacker Jim Morrissey and returned to the Packers' 20.
After a timeout, Harbaugh launched a 20-yard TD pass to Wendell Davis for a 21-10 lead.
Jacke added another 25-yard field goal at the end of the half to pull Green Bay within 21-13.
Harbaugh passed 35 yards to Davis for a 27-13 lead with 1:07 to go in the third quarter. Davis outdueled Clark after Harbaugh lofted a pass into the end zone.
Butler missed his first extra point of the season, hooking the kick wide left.
Ditka had words with Butler on the sideline.
"I didn't get mad with Butler," said Ditka. "I said to him: 'You've got to make those. That's an important 15th point (difference) in the game.' That's all I said to him."
Tight end Keith Jennings, starting in place of the injured James Thornton, recorded four receptions for 63 yards, the most catches by a Bears tight end this season.
"Jennings is a little bit better player than anyone gives him credit for, including us," said Ditka. "He catches the ball very well. He is not a very fast kid. He weighs 270 pounds. I like what I saw.
"If we work on getting the ball to him, we can get the ball to him eight or nine times a game."