Steelers’ Big Plays Doom Bears
Third and long? Fourth and long? No sweat. Not if you’re Neil O’Donnell. And not if you’re going against the Chicago Bears.
“You don’t want to be third and 11 most of the time,” said O’Donnell, who made one big play after another Sunday as the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Bears, 37-34, in overtime. “But I just tell the guys, ‘Give me some time and I’ll find the receivers.’ I think everyone did a pretty good job.”
O’Donnell sent the game into overtime with a 10-yard, fourth-down touchdown pass to Ernie Mills with 1:06 left in regulation and the two connected on a key third-down pass in overtime to set up Norm Johnson’s winning 24-yard field goal 8:19 into the extra period.
In all, the Steelers converted 12 of 21 third downs against the Bears, who entered the game ranked third-from-last in the NFL in third-down defense.
“We tried blitzing them, we tried rushing four, we tried rushing five,” Bear Coach Dave Wannstedt said. “They had 50% conversions on third down. That’s killing us. That’s ridiculous. It’s no secret to anybody; we’ve got to find a way to get better at it.”
O’Donnell passed for 341 yards and Erric Pegram scored three touchdowns for Pittsburgh (5-4), which took a one-game lead over Cleveland and Houston in the AFC Central. The Steelers had been 0-12 at Chicago.
“We have no control over the other people in our division, but we needed this one,” said O’Donnell, who had 34 completions in 52 attempts. “I think now a lot of guys believe in this locker room. There probably were some doubters, but I never gave up.”
Erik Kramer had three touchdown passes for the Bears (6-3), whose four-game winning streak was snapped. The Bears, a game ahead of the Packers in the NFC Central, visit Green Bay a week from Monday.
“I thought the game was ours all the way,” said Kramer, who was 15 for 28 for 228 yards but threw three interceptions after getting picked off only four times in the first eight games. “We didn’t make enough plays when we had to.”
The Bears took a 34-27 lead with 6:14 left. Alonzo Spellman deflected O’Donnell’s pass and linebacker Barry Minter picked the ball out of the air and went two yards for the touchdown.