6:20 PM CST, November 17, 2013
Of course there was overtime Sunday. The Bears-Ravens experience just wasn’t long enough.
Tornadic conditions. Driving rain. A delay of nearly two hours. The Soldier Field tar pit.
Thirteen Bears penalties. No offensive touchdowns until the fourth quarter. Going to overtime with timeouts remaining as the Ravens drove most of the field.
And the Bears won.
What’s more, they’re tied for first place after Robbie Gould booted a 38-yard field goal with 8:46 remaining in the extra period.
But back to the opening kickoff, which technically was at noon but seemed like Labor Day.
The Bears weren’t ready for the start. They weren’t ready for the restart, either.
What exactly did the Bears do during the week? What did they do during the nearly two-hour delay because of weather? Kill the buffet table?
The Bears needed urgency and execution. It was hard to find either at kickoff. Did the Bears know they needed to maintain some form of playoff hopes? I mean, the Lions are still the Lions, and they would prove it before the Bears’ improbable victory.
The Bears offense looked confused and fumble-fingered on three of its first four plays after the opening kickoff. The defense, meanwhile, was gashed. Ray Rice came into Soldier Field averaging 36 yards a game, then, bang, 47 yards on the second play. Two plays later, bang again, a 1-yard TD run by Rice.
By the time the game was delayed with 4:51 remaining in the first quarter, the Ravens had 10 points on their two possessions, while the Bears had 19 yards on theirs.
When play resumed, the Bears slipped and slid to a three-and-out, while the Ravens were running and passing down the field.
Then Julius Peppers made a play, sacking Joe Flacco to ruin a drive. Then David Bass made a play, tipping and grabbing a soft Flacco pass before running untouched for a 24-yard TD that somehow tied it at 10.
Yes, the Bears' defense had figured things out during the delay. No, the Bears' offense hadn’t.
Penalties, dropped passes, more penalties. Even after Jon Bostic’s startling first career interception with a minute to go in the first half, the Bears' offense was dogged by more penalties and more incompletions.
A vicious rain and swirling wind gusting over 60 mph in the third quarter altered passes, forced the Ravens to skip a long field goal and even required stabilizing a goal post. It became old-time football. Three yards and a divot of mud. The conditions also pointed up how valuable Jay Cutler’s arm strength can be.
Then again, the wind at your back can be a game-changer.
The Bears' offense finally figured out some things, and one of them was throwing the ball with the wind behind them. After not throwing a pass in the third quarter, McCown turned around and completed 5 of 6 for 68 yards to start the fourth quarter. He completed the drive with a 14-yard TD on a screen pass to Matt Forte to make it 20-17. The Bears had their first lead of the day on their first offensive TD of the day.
But it wouldn’t stand. Of course not. This wasn’t a day you could rely on anything, even the Ravens' offense being forced to go 84 yards into the wind.
When it mattered, though, the Bears' defense held the Ravens to a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation after first-and-goal at the 5.
And when it mattered in overtime, McCown converted a big third-down pass to Alshon Jeffery and a bigger one to Martellus Bennett. The offense that couldn’t do anything was suddenly doing everything.
Then Gould did what he does, and the Bears slid out with a win.
The Bears did a ton of aggravating things Sunday, especially the 111 yards in penalties and the 174 rushing yards to a team that couldn’t run the ball all season.
The Bears also did what was needed, and look at some of the stars who defeated the defending Super Bowl champs: Bass, Bostic, McCown. Bass was on the street to start the season. Bostic couldn’t get on the field. McCown was backing up the general manager’s idea of a franchise quarterback.
McCown’s resilience was remarkable, although it’s probably to be expected after what we’ve seen. He finds a way to win more than you’d expect. He certainly doesn’t turn over the ball. The minimum-wage quarterback didn’t throw an interception. The $20 million dollar guy on the other side threw two that turned into 10 points.
The tiresome “next man up’’ mantra seems to be becoming “next star up.’’ There doesn’t seem to be a game remaining on the schedule that the Bears can’t win, no matter how hard Mother Nature tries.
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