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Carlos Huerta could only laugh. Michael Lowery, thank the heavens. And Bryan Cox, just run for cover, man.
The skies opened up above Soldier Field Thursday night, accompanied by some fierce lightning, causing the stands to empty and officials to call off the Bears' final exhibition game with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter and the Kansas City Chiefs leading 14-10.
The remaining wonders of the announced crowd of 51,111 left only with the satisfaction of being a part of history as one of the few pro football games ever called by weather. It was the second game called at Soldier Field--in 1976, the College All-Star Game was called off in the third quarter amid rain and lightning. In 1980, a Green Bay-San Diego meeting in the Hall of Fame game in Canton was called because of severe thunder and lightning.
For a dripping Bears coach Dave Wannstedt, he had seen enough of a game that told him pretty much what he already knew. His offense will be OK, provided the leg injury of running back Rashaan Salaam does not prove to be serious; his defense still needs work; and his special teams are improving.
But any critical personnel decisions--and the Bears will cut down to their final 53-man roster Friday--will have to be based primarily on past performance.
All of which left Huerta, who kicked one point-after and one 27-yard field goal, more confused than ever.
"I wish I knew what was going to happen," shrugged the free agent, whose competition with veteran Kevin Butler has been among the most compelling of the preseason. "In a way, this was comic relief."
Lowery, a rookie free-agent linebacker, who also is fighting for roster survival, made an impression with an interception and 6-yard return to halt the Chiefs' first drive of the second half, and was naturally grateful to Mother Nature.
"I would like to think that was a good sign to the coaches," he said.
Cox was just happy to be alive, though that wasn't necessarily his first priority.
"With that one big bolt of lightning that hit, I took off running and I wanted it to be over then," Cox said. "All it takes is one bolt of lightning to kill off a lot of people. But really, I was more concerned with how we played."
Wannstedt has to be concerned with the recovery rate of his backfield. Salaam and Raymont Harris were injured on consecutive plays in the first quarter and never returned--Salaam with a bruised right hamstring and sore knee, and Harris with a bruised left quadriceps. Wide receiver Michael Timpson suffered a sprained hand.
"Raymont Harris has a (thigh) bruise. He'll be OK," said Wannstedt, who said Salaam will have an MRI Friday morning to determine the extent of his injury. "(Salaam) couldn't run after that one play," he said.
Salaam, who fumbled nine times last season, fumbled at the Chiefs' 3-yard line, his only such mistake in 38 preseason carries.
There must also be concern with the big-play vulnerability of the defense, which gave up touchdown passes of 36 and 16 yards, as well as a 63-yard run by Marcus Allen on the Chiefs' first possession of the game.
The Bears' pass rush could not be blamed for either of the Chiefs' touchdown passes as their quarterbacks were under considerable pressure both times--Steve Bono getting the first scoring pass off with a hand in his face and Rich Gannon hitting split end Lake Dawson in the end zone late in the first half just seconds before being flattened by linebacker Sean Harris. Dawson beat James Burton on the score.
But Wannstedt provided alibis. "The first play, the long run on our defense was my fault," he said. "We made a last-minute substitution, which I made, and it did not match up with the call in there. Then Kevin Miniefield runs Marcus Allen down, strains his hamstring and the next play they go a long pass and he can't run because his hamstring's sore."
The Bears' only touchdown came on a 66-yard second-quarter drive punctuated by a 22-yard scoring pass from Erik Kramer to a wide-open Keith Jennings.