Bears Beat Detroit to Win Title : Chicago Gains Home-Field Edge in NFC Playoffs

<i> From Associated Press </i>

The Chicago Bears used their home-field edge to gain the home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Kevin Butler kicked a 32-yard field goal with 4 seconds left Sunday and the Bears beat the Detroit Lions, 13-12, to clinch their fifth straight NFC Central title. Butler had a gusting wind at his back when he made the winning kick.

“We knew we might be kicking into a strong north wind in the final quarter and that’s why we decided to take the ball and defend the south goal after the coin flip,” he said.

“With the winds like they are at Soldier Field, we played the home field advantage to its fullest.”


Minnesota lost to Green Bay, allowing the Bears (12-3) to win the division title. The Vikings (10-5) and Bears meet next Monday night in Minnesota, a game that would have been a title showdown had the Vikings won Sunday.

Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh redeemed himself after a disappointing NFL starting debut in a 23-3 loss to the Rams last Monday night. He played the entire game against Detroit, completing 18 of 26 passes for 174 yards and leading the team in rushing with 36 yards and a touchdown.

“Last week I tried to make the big play too much. This time, I just took each play at a time,” Harbaugh said.

Temperatures were in the teens and the wind-chill factor dipped below zero at Soldier Field.


“The field was frozen and it made it tough for the guys to make their cuts,” Harbaugh said.

Mike Tomczak dressed for the game but didn’t play and Jim McMahon, the Bears’ No. 1 quarterback, missed his sixth straight game with a twisted knee.

Trailing, 12-10, Harbaugh used a 17-yard pass to Dennis McKinnon and an 11-yard pass to James Thornton to help move the Bears from their own 30 to inside the Detroit 15 and set up Butler’s second field goal of the game.

The Lions moved 80 yards on the previous series, with Garry James diving over from the 1 to put Detroit ahead, 12-10. Al Harris blocked the extra point attempt by Ed Murray, which turned out to be the margin of victory.


“It looks like there was tremendous pressure inside,” Detroit Coach Wayne Fontes said of the Bears’ defense on the blocked extra point.

Harbaugh ran 4 yards up the middle on a quarterback draw for a touchdown with 4:05 left in the third quarter to put injury-riddle Chicago ahead, 10-6. During the 74-yard scoring drive, Harbaugh ran 19 yards to midfield and passed 22 yards to Dennis McKinnon to move Chicago to the Detroit 10.

Lions quarterback Rusty Hilger completed 13 of 28 passes for 195 yards.

The Lions, who have lost 9 straight in Chicago, fell to 4-11.