Never in all my football-viewing years have I witnessed a game like the one that played out last night on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The still undefeated Chicago Bears paid a visit on the Arizona Cardinals in their fancy new stadium. Everybody from the “experts” to the fans to the players had written the game off as an easy win for the Bears. The Cardinals came into the game at 1-5 with a rookie quarterback in only his second start.
The Bears got greedy early, sending wide receiver Bernard Berrian on a long route on the first play of the game. Had quarterback Rex Grossman connected the play likely would have ended in a touchdown, or at least fantastic field position for the rest of the drive. Instead Berrian missed getting a finger on the ball by a matter of inches, and the drive stalled with a three-and-out. Then the Cardinals took over and pretty much ran roughshod over the Bears for the remainder of the first half. Their first two drives resulted in touchdowns. Over the course of the game Grossman was responsible for no less than six turnovers–he fumbled twice and threw four interceptions. He was completely unable to get his offense into any sort of rhythm. The Bears offense was responsible for only three points the whole game. The first half ended with the Cardinals ahead 20-3.
The second half was equally anemic for the Bears from an offensive standpoint, but the defense managed to bear down (hah) and hold the Cardinals to only three more points. More importantly, however, they forced two fumbles. Rookie defensive end Mark Anderson caused the first by hitting Cardinals QB Matt Leinart from the blind side. Bears safety Mike Brown scooped up the loose ball and trotted five yards into the end zone. Later in the fourth quarter as the Cardinals tried to run down the clock Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher stripped the ball from Arizona running back Edgerrin James. Charles “Peanut” Tillman recovered the fumble and ran it back for the second Bears touchdown of the night.
With three minutes left in the game the Bears defense forced a three-and-out. On the punt return rookie Devin Hester ran almost untouched for eighty-three yards to put the Bears ahead 24-23.
On the following possession Arizona drove the ball to within field goal range. The Bears defense had to be exhausted by this point; they’d spent over twice as much time on the field as their counterparts on the other side of the ball. With less than a minute to go the Cardinals set up for forty-two yard field goal attempt. The kick missed the mark by about a foot. It was second time in two weeks that Arizona kicker Neil Rackers had missed a game-saving kick. I had to feel a little sorry for the guy.
I’m glad the Bears won. I’m thrilled to still be undefeated. I am very happy to be the only 6-0 team in the NFL, at least until the Indianapolis Colts come back from their bye week. But last night was one of the ugliest, ugliest wins I’ve ever witnessed. I can’t for sure say we even deserved to win, but I guess that’s what good teams do.