The engaging and at times entertaining repartee between cruiserweight members of the Bears and Atlanta Falcons spilled onto the playing field Sunday.
The contest went the distance in front of 62,855 ringsiders at Soldier Fieldthe Bears winning on points, 30-24.
Physically and esthetically, it was an ugly win for the Bears (8-1), who suffered injuries to quarterback Jim Harbaugh (bruised shoulder) and running back Neal Anderson (pulled left hamstring).
"It is just bruised in the front and bruised in the back-the sternum and the back of the neck," said Harbaugh. "They had pictures (X-rays) taken, and it doesn't look like it is separated.
"I hurt it the first time on the sack (by linebacker Jessie Tuggle), early in the fourth quarter, on the back of my neck. Then the next one was when I ran out of bounds and got hit (by safety Scott Case). I hurt the front of the shoulder. But I think it is just going to be sore for awhile."
Coach Jerry Glanville's Falcons (3-6) endured personal indignities as well as their 15th straight road loss.
The wagging tongues of Bears cornerback Lemuel Stinson and Atlanta's Deion Sanders and Andre Rison hyped the main event all week. Stinson intercepted two Chris Miller passes as the Bears made a 17-3 halftime lead and 24-3 third-quarter advantage hold up for their fifth straight victory.
"You set a goal and try to go to it," said Stinson. "I accomplished my goals today. Atlanta is in our past right now."
The Bears' next three opponents-Denver, Minnesota and Detroit-each have a 3-6 record. Will the NFC Central leaders, now 4½ games ahead of second-place Tampa Bay, need similar pregame histrionics to fire them up?
"I don't think we need anything to motivate ourselves this year," said Bears guard Tom Thayer. "This year the bottom line is to win and look better than we did last year."
Harbaugh completed 14 of 28 passes for 195 yards and one touchdown before bowing out with the shoulder injury that appears to leave him questionable next Sunday at Denver. Tomczak, greeted by a chorus of boos, stepped in and was 0 for 5 with one interception.
Anderson, limited to 22 yards on 14 carries, said he thought it was "stupid" of the fans to boo Tomczak.
"It is easy for the fans not to see what is happening because Mike doesn't operate under the same conditions as the other guyhe was in an all-out blitz," said coach Mike Ditka.
When Stinson wasn't stealing the spotlight on defense, defensive end Richard Dent was enjoying one of the best games of his career, notching two sacks, recovering a fumble and deflecting two passes.
Sloppy special teams play detracted from the Bears' triumph.
"We really have to go to work on that," said Ditka.
The Falcons took a 3-0 lead on a 36-yard field goal by Greg Davis in the first quarter following a fumbled exchange between Harbaugh and Anderson.
The Bears matched that score with a 21-yard Kevin Butler field goal.
Anderson sprang 8 yards to the right corner of the south end zone for a TD with 4:12 left in the half to put the Bears on top 10-3. The 55-yard drive featured a 14-yard Harbaugh-to-Jim Thornton pass, a 9-yard pass to Ron Morris and a 16-yard run by Harbaugh, who led the team in rushing with 47 yards.
bears 30, falcons 24
Bears' win isn't a knockout
Falcons floor Harbaugh but fall short
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