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One second left. Wind at his back. Game on the line. Fans on their feet.
Kevin Butler was loving it.
No kicker craves the spotlight more than the Bears' nine-year veteran from Georgia.
For the fifth time this season, the Bears were in excellent position to win a game in the final moments. This time it was Butler, one of the most reliable kickers in the National Football League at crunch time.
But he failed Sunday on a 30-yard field-goal attempt that could have salvaged an improbable victory.
Wide left, no good.
The Los Angeles Raiders (5-3) strutted away with a 16-14 triumph that left a bitterly cold Soldier Field crowd of 59,750 bitterly disappointed.
"I'll try to go with the 24-hour rule and forget about it," said Butler, who also shanked a 21-yarder-the shortest miss of his career-with 5 minutes 21 seconds left that could have brought the Bears within 16-10.
"I don't think it reflects on what kind of kicker I am. I had a bad day. I've worked way too hard to let something like this bring me down. They definitely are going to rely on me throughout the season. They know I play a big part, so it's my obligation to go out and correct the mistakes and come back out and make them all."
Butler entered this season having made 9 of 13 field-goal attempts in his career with less than a minute to go or in overtime. After two of those misses, the Bears won in overtime on one of his field goals. A third miss was a 50-yarder in the snow. Last Nov. 15, he missed a 44-yarder at Tampa Bay that could have tied the game 20-20 and sent it into overtime.
So where are the playmakers Bears coach Dave Wannstedt was looking for at the start of this baffling season?
In two earlier losses, there were mixups in the secondary. Another loss found the defense unable to stop a clinching Packers drive. Yet another loss included a costly interception. Now this unlikely missed chip shot at the buzzer.
"This is obviously as tough a loss as I have ever been around. Period. Not just this year," said Wannstedt, whose team dropped its third straight and fell to 3-5.
Three consecutive road games in San Diego, Kansas City and Detroit await the Bears.
"I talked to Kevin in my office," said Wannstedt. "He has to treat this no different than Jim Harbaugh would after a bad game or Steve McMichael would after a bad game. You come out and go back to work on Tuesday and get ready for next week. Kickers are treated no different and he doesn't want to be treated any different than any other player on this team."
The Bears nearly put together a miracle finish after trailing 16-7 in the fourth quarter. A 13-yard pass from Harbaugh to Terry Obee pulled them to within 16-14 with 1:13 left. Then an onside kick by Chris Gardocki was recovered by rookie Keshon Johnson at midfield with 1:10 left.
Harbaugh ran 25 yards on a quarterback draw and drew a personal foul on Eddie Anderson, who hit him on his way out of bounds. That gave the Bears a first down at the Raiders' 12 with 1:03 showing. Neal Anderson gained a yard as the Bears attempted to run the clock down. Harbaugh took the next snap and knelt down for a 2-yard loss.
The Bears had no timeouts remaining and the Raiders helped cause confusion by kicking the ball while it was on the ground and shoving some of the Bears. The clock wound down and the Bears were barely able to stop the clock with :01 remaining when Harbaugh downed the ball.
As the Bears' field-goal team rushed onto the field, the Raiders called a timeout. "That didn't bother me," said Butler. "It gives you time to get the field right out there. It was pretty chopped up out there."
Center Jay Leeuwenburg's snap was high, and holder Gardocki pulled the ball down. But Butler hooked the ball wide left and he was left to explain his botched attempt.
"Basically, I missed it. I took a little left turn there and the Raiders win," said Butler. "I think that's the way to get into a real bad slump if you put too much emphasis on these bad kicks. I didn't go out there to try to miss them. It's just unfortunate."
The Raiders led 13-0 at the half, scoring on a 31-yard Jeff Jaeger field goal in the first period. In the second period, the Raiders added a 1-yard TD run by Napoleon McCallum after a 25-yard interception return by Eddie Anderson, and a 21-yard field goal by Jaeger.
The Bears ended a drought of 12 quarters without a touchdown when Anderson scored from 3 yards out at the end of a seven-play, 81-yard drive with 5:15 left in the third period.
Jaeger's third field goal, a 20-yarder with 7:49 to go in the fourth period, gave the Raiders a 16-7 lead.