Say goodbye to the Detroit Lions and San Diego Chargers. Real football returns to Soldier Field this Sunday as the Bears play host to the St. Louis Rams.
The Bears have had success against the run at times this season, but today clearly is their biggest test to date. Marshall Faulk returns from injury just in time to drop the Bears down the NFL run-stopping rankings.
Here's the difference between the Rams and the Bears: The Rams' backup quarterback is a former two-time NFL MVP. The Bears' backup quarterback is Kordell Stewart. Any questions?
So where's Rex Grossman, you ask? The rook has been listed as the team's No. 3 QB, which means the Grossman era still is on hold.
The Bears hope the former Greatest Show on Turf will be slowed a bit by the wet grass in Chicago. Unfortunately the Bears have to run on the same slippery stuff. The weather on the lake is misty. The top of the skyline normally visible over the north-east corner of the stadium is mostly obscured by the low-hanging clouds. If it's not windy, it's raining. It's often both. Welcome to fall in Chicago.
Coin toss: Rams call heads. They win the toss and take the ball. The PA guy cranks "Bawitdaba" as they Bears kick. I thought we left Kid Rock in Detroit.
Marc Bulger goes to work. Scratch that. Faulk goes to work. A gain of 2. Faulk again. Runs right for 5 yards to the 31. On third and short flags fly, fingers point. False start on the rams. Make that third and long. Here we go again: Bulger's pass is tipped at the line by Bryan Robinson and the ancient Sean Landeta will punt. McQuarters takes the punt sideways for a return of zero yards.
Chandler hands to Thomas, who runs through a big hole, makes a guy miss and gets to midfield. Twenty-one yard gain. Thomas picks up 2 more. Thomas gets another 2 to bring up third-and-6. Chandler's pass intended for Desmond Clark hits a Rams linebacker in the butt. Brad Maynard's punt bounces at the 5 and Ahmad Merritt makes a great play leaping into the end zone and batting the ball back into the field of play where it's downed at the 3. Let's see the replay on that one. Guess not. Instead they show a car commercial. OK, here's the replay. Merritt was a yard in the end zone. Bad call but Mike Martz decides not to replay.
Good call. Bulger hits Isaac Bruce and the Rams are out to the 20 anyway. Bulger goes to a wide-open Torry Holt for 10 yards. Jerry Azumah played that poorly. He was running up field long after Hold curled back towards the line. After Faulk ran for no gain, Holt moved early and the Rams face second-and-15. Bulger finds Dane Looker for 7 yards. Bulger looks for Holt, but Charles Tillman steps in front of the pass and grabs his third interception of the year. Tillman really got physical with Holt there. He basically knocked him out of his route.
The Bears start at their own 49. Chandler lofts one long to Terrell. It's badly under-thrown and Jerametrius Butler takes this one away. Rams' ball at the 18. Bryan Knight has replaced Lance Briggs at the strong-side linebacker. It's looks like Briggs may be having some sort of equipment problem. Faulk runs twice for short gains. Bulger hits Bruce for 8 yards and a first down. Bulger hits Holt at midfield. The receiver stiff-arms Tillman and a flag flies. May be face mask. Wait. No foul. First down after the 23-yard gain. Bulger looks for Holt on a crossing pattern. Tillman is flagged for interference. Good battle here between Holt and Tillman. First down at the 37. Gain of 9 on the penalty. Bulger lofts one to Faulk towards the end zone but it's incomplete. Faulk pleads for a flag. Tillman on the coverage. Bulger lobs one to the same spot, this time to Bruce and Bobby Gray breaks it up. Rams use their first timeout.
Hey, solid celeb sighting: Jonathan Winters walking down the hallway. He's on the Rams' honorary advisory board, along with Bill Cosby, Dick Gephardt and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Do the Bears have one of these?
OK, a Briggs update. He's having back spasms and his return is "questionable." Remind me not to drink any more coffee.
Back to football. Third-and-15, Bulger tries for Faulk but puts too much on it. Decent defensive stop by the Bears. Punt coming; downed at the 10.
Thomas is stacked up at the line. Chandler's pass is batted up in the air and Clark snares it for a 5-yard pickup. Justin Gage drops the third-down pass and the Bears will punt. Pass was behind hm a bit, but he should've held on. Maynard's punt is short and the Rams start at the 42.
Bulger finds Holt for 11. Then to Bruce, who is brought down after 2 yards by a nice tackle by Tillman. Some sort of wacky reverse is sniffed out by Keith Traylor and Urlacher takes down Cameron Cleeland in the backfield. Bulger hits Holt on a crossing patter. Holt picks up a block and is finally taken down by Mike Brown. Gain of 11 yards but not enough for the first. Fourth-and-one. Bulger doesn't like what he sees and calls timeout. Instead they'll kick. The 41-yarder is good. Briggs was out there on special teams.
Rams 3, Bears 0
The Rams kick it away from Azumah. Rabih Abdullah fields the kick and takes it to the 31.
Fullback Stanley Pritchett goes in motion and Chandler hits him for a 4-yard gain. Thomas is taken down behind the line.
Desmond Clark picks up a first down. Chandler hits White for about 7 and then finds Booker for a first at the Rams' 40. Chandler finally gives Booker some. Clark gets about 5 on a short pass before taking a beating. Thomas runs right but is yanked down for no gain. With an empty backfield, Chandler has plenty of time but tries to finess it over the middle to Clark. With two defenders on the tight end, the linebacker tipped the ball and then picked it off.
The Rams start at the 17. Faulk takes a handoff and is nailed by Alfonso Boone after getting 2 yards. Bulger's pass to Holt is short, bringing up third-and-8, which wakes up the crowd. Robinson gets his hand on another Bulger pass. Guard Adam Timmerman grabs the ball and is nailed by Urlacher. The Rams will punt. R.W. McQuarters makes a few moves, reverses direction and takes it 60 yards to the end zone.
Bears 7, Rams 3
It was just a matter of time before McQuarters broke one. He had been close the last few weeks.
The replay shows a block in the back by Brock Williams sprung McQuarters. That's the second blown call by the refs.
From the 35, Azumah comes on a corner blitz and sacks Bulger for a 6-yard loss. He went right around Faulk. What in the world is going on here: two straight sacks by the Bears. Boone bull rushes his way and nails Bulger for an 8-yard loss. The third straight sign of the coming apocalypse: another sack. This time Alex Brown gets Bulger. The Rams punt and Bears fans everywhere are wondering what happened on that defensive series. Three straight sacks. Greg Blache can't be happy.
The Bears get the ball back in good shape at the Rams 47. Throw one to the end zone. Why not? John Shoop ignores my advice and instead the Bears hand to Thomas for 3 yards. Thomas with a head of steam runs around the right corner for 5. On third-and-1, the Bears line up in the I and give to Thomas up the middle for the first to the 35. Now whip it in the end zone. Play-action and gets ugly fast. Chandler is pressured and then has his pass tipped. But the Rams jumped and the Bears will have a first-and-5 at the 30. Thomas gets 1 up the middle. Thomas takes a pitch, makes a guy miss and then follows blockers all the way down to the 4. A 25-yard gain on a great run by Thomas. First and goal and Chandler drops the snap. The Bears recover. Great time for that to happen. Thomas rumbles to the 1. On third-and-goal, Thomas is met at the line and Olin Kreutz appeals to the sideline to go for it. They will and Thomas barely gets over the line on his second effort. Nevertheless, touchdown Bears.
Bears 14, Rams 3
Maybe the Rams can't play outside after all. Speaking of which, more fog has rolled in off the lake.
Edinger's kick dies at the 10 and the Bears think they've recovered. And they have. Big hit by Ahmad Merritt. That's two nice special teams plays by the Chicago kid.
The Bears have it at the 19 and Chandler lofts one to the end zone for Booker but he's covered and the ball is over-thrown. Thomas runs left for maybe a yard. Make that 3. It's a little hard to see from this angle. Gage nearly makes a great grab in the back of the end zone, but got only one foot in. Edinger's 34-yarder is wide left.
So the Rams take over at the spot and Faulk picks up about 3 before the 2-minute warning takes us to a lengthy TV timeout. Bulger to Mike Furrey gets 7 yards and a first. Bulger tries to force it to Fuzzy again, but Azumah steps in front and gets a hand on the pass. Bulger's pass to Bruce is way behind the receiver and I'm thinking we might see Kurt Warner before the day is done. This one is behind Looker, but Looker does the quarterback no favors by letting the ball go right through his hands.
After the punt, the Bears take over at the 30 with 1:27 on the clock. The Bears have all their timeouts left, so , of course, Jauron will probably run the clock out like he did in Detroit last week. Chandler's pass is tipped at the line and the quarterback gets a face full of turf. Abdullah picks up a yard on second down and on third down, as usual, the Bears throw shorter than the marker. Boos. The Rams call timeout with 37 seconds left. Bulger chucks one long for Holt, but Mike Brown knocks it down. Faulk runs and that's the half.
Azumah takes the second-half kick to the 41. Makes you wonder why this guy hasn't been returning kicks the whole time. Yet Dick Jauron went with Leon Johnson last season. Thomas picks up a few. And then Chandler hits Pritchett, but Mike Gandy is called for illegal hands to the face, which backs the Bears up big time into a second-and-18 at the 33. After an incompletion rolls right and over-throws Gage deep. Not the greatest start to the half. Puntola.
From the 27, Bulger rolls right and hits Looker on the run for 9. Robinson and Urlacher team up to nail Faulk for a 2-yard loss. Tillman drags down Bruce short of the marker and the Rams will punt. Nice open-field tackle by Tillman. The punt goes out of bounds at the 12.
Thomas puts his head down and gets 3. Terrell goes in motion and Chandler hits Pritchett on the oppooite side. Gain of 2. Gandy jumps early. Gandy is an issue on that line. So third-and-9, Chandler hits Dez White and White fights for the first, bailing out Gandy. Booker picks up a first and then is called for taunting. That's a killer. Thomas gets 5 back as the Bears wear out the grass around their own 20. Play action and Chandler takes off--slowly. Got 2, maybe. On third-and-3, Chandler over-throws Terrell and it goes in and out of the hands of cornerback Aeneas Williams. Maynard's punt is downed at the 26.
Bulger spins out of trouble and finds Faulk in the flat for 5 yards. The Bears don't bite on the fake reverse and Briggs and Phillip Daniels nail Faulk after a gain of a yard. Bulger hits Bruce at the marker and McQuarters makes the tackle. It'll depend on the spot. Chain crews takes its sweet time coming from the opposite sideline. The Rams are short and they'll go for it on fourth. Faulk breaks through the hole and there he goes. In the open field with only Brown to beat, he beats Brown badly, but in the process is caught from behind at the 8. Urlacher waved at the tackle at the line. Those are your two big money guys getting smoked badly. Lamar Gordon picks up another 4 down to the 4. Bulger hits Holt in the end zone. Touchdown.
Bears 14, Rams 10
I was just going to write how the Bears had been shutting down Faulk. He had 21 yards in the first half and was stuffed twice on that last possession. But then he busts one for 52 yards on fourth and short. Holt twisted his ankle on the TD.
Onside kick! The Bears are caught napping and...big pile up for the ball. Rams got it. Whether is went 10 yards is up to the replay guys and the refs. That is, if the Bears challenge. They will. Cue the "Jeopardy" theme music. Aren't they supposed to decide this in 90 seconds? It's been about 10 minutes. Let's go! This ain't football. Play stands. I can't even remember what the play in question was, but it stands.
Rams ball at the 41 and Bulger hits a wide-open Holt, who eventually runs out of bounds. Thirteen-yard gain. Faulk makes a great hesitation move in the backfield, freezes the defense, and then sprints through the hole for 7 yards. The Bears are offsides, to boot. Faulk gets a few to set up a third-and-1. Tillman nearly picks off his second pass. Alas, he drops it. On fourth Furrey runs right and is brought down by Briggs and Tillman. He gets a good spot; first down. Bulger throws behind Holt. Incomplete. After Faulk got 2, the Bears call timeout. Bulger hits Looker and Mike Brown sends him flying with a submarine tackle--but after he got the first. From the 23, Bulger rolls right and hits Bruce for 5 yards. End of the third.
Faulk, Faulk and more Faulk gets the Rams down to the 4, just short of the marker. On third-and-1, Bulger fakes to Faulk and hits a wide-open Brandon Manumaleuna for an easy 6 and the Rams take the lead.
Rams 17, Bears 14
Dez White dives for a Chandler pass but can't make the catch. Thomas runs into the pile, prompting some boos. On third-and-8 Chandler is sacked and this game has really swung the Rams' way.
A hold on the punt return means the Rams will start at their own 39. Faulk runs for 5 and then Bulger hits Holt for 16 more to the Bears' 33. Faulk gets 2 more and goes over 100 yards for the afternoon. Faulk catches a ball out of the backfield for 12 yards and the Rams are moving the ball like it's practice. Gordon gets a try at running the ball and picks up 6 on first down. Faulk runs right into Alex Brown in the backfield and loses 5 yards. Michael Haynes shows up on third down and sacks Bulger. Big play, considering it looked like the Bears defense was taking the series off. Jeff Wilkins' 44-yard kick is good.
Rams 20, Bears 14
Down 6 with 7:15 remaining, the Bears start from their 38 and go right to Booker for 24 yards. Chandler then hits Desmond Clark on the run and Clark makes a nice gain of it, 27 yards to the 11. Bears moving the ball quite quickly. What the? Chandler hits a leaping White in the end zone and the Bears just moved the ball 62 yards in three plays. Unheard of.
Bears 21, Rams 20
After that defensive showing, no way the Bears hire Lovie Smith as their coach.
Hear that hissing? That was the air going out of this place after Edinger's kick rolled out of bounds. Brutal. That's more like it.
Tillman cuts down Manuwhathisface after 3 yards. Azumah steps in front of Holt and picks off Bulger's pass at the 42.
The Bears get the ball back with just over 5 minutes left and run Thomas left. This is no time to run the clock out. They need first downs and a score. Thomas gets to the 50. Unfortunately the first-down marker is at the 52. Third down. Chandler's pass bounces before it gets to Booker and that was not a good series. You need a first. Wait. I'm being too hard on them. Looks like they got the first. Replay shows it might have hit Booker's hand rather than the ground and the Bears will challenge. That gets the biggest cheer of the game. The refs overturn the call and it's first down for the Bears at the 43. Huge play there, but you need another first soon. The clock runs. Thomas runs and the Rams call timeout with 3:05 remaining. Thomas runs again and again St. Louis burns a timeout, its last. Third-and-8, the ball is tipped and hits Clark right in the chest. Chandler threw into triple coverage and the Bears will punt and hope they can pin St. Louis deep. A great punt by Maynard but Merritt is on the goal line when he tries to down it. The refs already blew that call once involving Merritt. They get this one right. Rams' ball on the 20.
Bruce picks up 8 on a quick out, followed by 5 by Holt. Bulger throws two straight incompletions, bringing up third and 10 with just over 2 minutes left. Bulger threads one to Holt for a big gain, 21 yards. Two-minute warning. I hate to say it, but this has last-second field goal written all over it. Bulger is dropped but there's a flag in the secondary. Illegal contact against Briggs before the sack, 5-yard penalty and a first. Bulger throws behind Bruce, but flags again fly in the secondary. Tillman is called for hands to the face. Another first down by penalty and Greg Blache looks like he wants to jump in the lake. Bulger hits Furrey and Furrey runs out at the 29. Azumah trips up Faulk, but not before Faulk picks up the first. The clock ticks, approaching 1 minute. Bruce catches one at the 20 and ducks out. On second-and-4, Bulger's pass is tipped at the line and falls incomplete. Daniels got a hand on it. Bruce makes a sliding catch past the marker. The Rams have no timeouts and will spike the ball to kill the clock. Second and 10 at the 13 with :49 on the clock. Faulk dives for a few and the Bears burn a timeout with 41 seconds remaining. Wilkins kicks a 31-yarder to give the Rams the lead.
Rams 23, Bears 21
Azumah takes the kick at the 7 and motors to the 45. Big play there. OK, 31 seconds left, Chandler hits White, who can't get out of bounds, so the Bears hustle to the line and spike it. White got 11 there. Terrell catches a quick ball for 4 yards and there's now 11 seconds left with the Bears at the St. Louis 40. Chandler sails one over White, bringing up fourth down. Chandler drops back for a hail mary. There's no one there and Aaron Gibson is called for illegal hands to the face. Ballgame. Anticlimactic ending there.
Bears had their chances, but the same old story. The defense can't get a stop when it counts and the offense stalls at crucial moments.
Final: Rams 23, Bears 21
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