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They all had their reasons. And who's to argue? Except, of course, those Bears fans who would just as soon the team forfeited the remainder of its schedule to secure as high a draft choice as possible.
For quarterback Erik Kramer, defeating the Buffalo Bills 20-3 Sunday at Soldier Field was personal. "I'm just trying to play us out of those quarterback sweepstakes," he deadpanned.
For linebacker Ron Cox, it was all about wiping out memories of the Thanksgiving Day massacre in Detroit.
"I'm still mad about that," said Cox in the victorious locker room. "I can just see it. I'll be on some island in the off-season and there I'll be on a Cadillac commercial chasing Barry (Sanders). We got embarrassed, and somebody had to pay for it."
For coach Dave Wannstedt, who under continued criticism has yet to receive a public commitment from team President Mike McCaskey, the motives are obvious. But no one quite expected the barrage he unloaded on his players at a team meeting Saturday night.
"He made a great speech," said Cox, part of a defense that turned in its best performance of the season with just 160 total yards allowed and five sacks. "He opened a lot of guys' eyes up, and he put everybody on the spot. He said that everybody's accountable just like he is, and guys responded. He was just being realistic--`Go look in the mirror. You get paid to play. Let's do it.' "
Wannstedt did not hesitate to name names, challenging some, like end Mark Thomas, for example, to prove himself worthy of being an NFL starter, and others, like Alonzo Spellman, to simply perform.
"He called some guys out, but we all knew he could have gone right around the room and mentioned everybody's name," tackle Jim Flanigan said.
"Sometimes," said Curtis Conway, following his best game of an injury-shortened season with seven catches for 115 yards, "you have to look at an individual and tell him in so many words without putting him down, `You have to step up.'
"That's what he did last night in the meeting, and that was the best thing that could have happened to us--`Forget all the babying. Show me. Don't just say it. Don't just do it in practice. Show it when it counts.' "
Of course, whether the third victory of the season with two to go constitutes showing it "when it counts" is debatable. And whether Wannstedt's words earlier in the season simply fell on deaf ears or unwilling legs is unclear.
"I don't do any of that stuff publicly; I've tried not to do it in five years, " he said, seemingly annoyed that word of his speech leaked out. "Every week, we talk about those things."
Sunday, however, before a stadium left even colder than usual by a whopping 27,160 no-shows, and against a team that made it easy for much of the day, the Bears acted on the challenge.
"Guys responded in a real positive way," Wannstedt said. "Early in the game, when we had the two turnovers on our first two possessions (on two interceptions of Kramer), that could have been groundwork for a group of guys falling apart. But they battled the whole game against a good football team."
That, too, is debatable. The 6-8 Bills were at least equally to blame for their dismal offensive showing (minus-2 yards total until late in the first half).
"I do not believe in being `flat,' I believe in being outplayed," Buffalo coach Marv Levy said. "I do not remember a worse game, not in the 12 years that I have been here."
The Bears, in allowing the franchise record for most points in a season (380) to be eclipsed, also held the Bills to a season-low (for both teams) three points. In addition, they limited one of the league's better rushing teams to just 55 yards on the ground and one rushing first down for the game, as well as another season low, 160 yards in total offense and just 2 of 12 third-down conversions.
The return of Spellman in a reserve role after a well-documented nine-game absence because of a shoulder injury and subsequent suspension, did not hurt the Bears' effort.
"When you get a guy in there with Alonzo's athletic ability, it makes the whole line play better," Thomas said. "We're going to show we play well together and that we need to stick together."
Offensively, the victory was tempered by the third-quarter injury of Raymont Harris, who broke his leg following a 20-yard gain--"the injury du jour for the Bears this year," trainer Tim Bream said. Harris will undergo an estimated four-month rehab, thus taking out the starting backfield for the season. Darnell Autry (40 yards on 14 carries Sunday) will fill in for Harris, who started the season in a two-back set with Rashaan Salaam, who broke his leg in the third game of the season.
Harris, who became the seventh Bear ever to top 1,000 yards (1,033) before bowing out, was limited to 59 yards on 24 carries by a talented Bills front four, forcing Kramer to continue to pass after the two early picks. With ample protection, that resulted in a nice offensive mix that resulted in 17 second-quarter points--the first of two Jeff Jaeger field goals, a 30-yard TD pass to tight end Ryan Wetnight and a 3-yarder to Ricky Proehl.
Afterward, talk again centered on going out on as positive a note as possible.
"It hasn't showed when you look at our record," said Conway, "but we want to go out showing people we do have enough talent to turn this thing around next year."
The downside is that with every victory, the Bears risk dropping in draft order--with the victory and Arizona's loss, they fell to third Sunday.
Regardless, Bears players have more pressing concerns.
"We want to finish the season strong no matter what it costs us in the draft," tackle James Williams said. "There will be players out there who can help us. We might just have to wait a little longer to get them."
There was no mystery about where Wannstedt stood.
"I'm just happy we got a win, that's all," he said. "No more."