The Bears had almost as many turnovers (three) as total yards (four) in the third quarter. Their running game never gained the needed yards to slow Philadelphia’s fearsome pass rush. But none of that mattered, thanks to a fast start by quarterback Kyle Orton and an even faster finish by Chicago’s defense in Sunday night’s 24-20 upset of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Bears had almost as many turnovers (three) as total yards (four) in the third quarter.
Their running game never gained the needed yards to slow Philadelphia’s fearsome pass rush.
But none of that mattered, thanks to a fast start by quarterback Kyle Orton and an even faster finish by Chicago’s defense in Sunday night’s 24-20 upset of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Bears (2-2) came in having played solid defense in 12 of 14 quarters this season. But the defense had also blown a pair of double-digit fourth-quarter leads the last two weeks. This time, though, the Bears stood tallest when it mattered the most, turning back the Eagles with a late goal-line stand to move into a tie with Green Bay for first place in the NFC Central.
“That’s the way it works,” cornerback Nathan Vasher said. “You want to get stops and stand up when you need to.”
Donovan McNabb (25-for-41 for 262 yards) drove the Eagles (2-2) 72 yards to the Bears’ 4 in seven plays. Cornell Buckhalter then ran 3 yards to the 1, where safety Kevin Payne stood him up. Philadelphia then tried three runs from the 1.
Tony Hunt went nowhere, pushed back half a yard by Payne and safety Mike Brown. Buckhalter tried to leap over the top and almost made it, but was spun around with a big hit by Adewale Ogunleye, inches from the goal line.
On fourth down, Buckhalter tried to go low, but defensive end Alex Brown stopped him short, giving the Bears the ball at the 1 clinging to a 24-20 lead with 3:32 to play.
“They tried the same play three times in a row,” linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer said. “It’s unbelievable to come up with that. It was just a mass of bodies. That’s a fun way to win if you’re a defensive guy.”
The Bears offense started out having fun, too. Orton threw a 34-yard pass to Rashied Davis on Chicago’s first play of the game, his longest pass of the season. He then threw a 6-yard pass to Matt Forte and a 19-yard touchdown pass to Greg Olsen on a three-play, 59-yard, no-huddle TD drive.
“We hit some big plays early,” Olsen said. “That first play of the game, Rashied, he got us started.”
Nor did Orton stop. He converted his last three third-down passes of the first half – something he needed to do with the Bears averaging only 0.6 yards on 10 first-down rushes the first three quarters. And he threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Marty Booker and a 20-yarder to Devin Hester, who beat All-Pro cornerback Asante Samuel, to give the Bears a 21-14 halftime lead.
Orton had a career-high three TD passes by halftime. But he had only 25 of his 199 yards passing in the second half.
“We played well, extremely well, in the first half,” Orton said. “We had them on their heels.
“But the third quarter we came out and really laid an egg.”
Only on offense. The defense started coming up big long before its final goal-line stand, and it saved several of its biggest plays for the third quarter.
The Eagles started three drives in Chicago territory, starting out at the 41, 38 and 31. It scored zero, 3 and 3 points on those three drives after an Orton interception and two Orton fumbles.
The first time, Alex Brown stuffed Buckhalter for no gain on third-and-1 to hold the Eagles to a 3-and-out and a missed 50-yard field goal in the second quarter. The second time, two incomplete passes and a Mark Anderson sack turned a first-and-goal from the 2 into a short field goal, cutting Chicago’s lead to 21-17 but not tying it, in the third quarter. The Eagles kicked another field goal early in the fourth quarter, after a Hillenmeyer sack helped stop them after they had a first down at the 15.
“The defense did an unbelievable job a couple of times to bail us out when we hurt ourselves,” Olsen said.
And the offense bailed out the defense after its biggest play. Forte’s 10-yard run on third-and-4 from his 7 meant the Eagles didn’t get the ball back until only 17 seconds remained.
“The offense came through for us and made it easy for us toward the end,” Vasher said.
But only after the defense passed its hardest test of the season.
“That was big-time,” defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek said of the goal-line stand. “It shows what this team is all about. The last two weeks, when we needed that play to get a victory, we didn’t have it. We had our backs against the wall and we made the plays today.”
“The fourth-down stand on the goal line was unbelievable,” Olsen said. “These are the kind of wins that can get some momentum going.”
Assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at: 815-987-1383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.