By Dan Wiederer, Chicago Tribune reporter
11:24 PM CST, November 17, 2013
Crazy the way mind works, the way it can be twisted and tested, then steered toward defining moments. Then what?
At the end of a grueling Sunday at Soldier Field, 11 Bears sauntered into an offensive huddle.
More than five hours had passed since the opening kickoff against the Ravens.
Two sets of nasty storms had whipped through Chicago, creating a first-half delay of 1 hour and 53 minutes.
But now, with the field a mud pit and debris swirling in the wind and an exhausting game needing some kind of ending, quarterback Josh McCown and tight end Martellus Bennett converged on an opportunity.
With their minds spinning in different directions, McCown and Bennett ultimately combined on the clutch 43-yard completion that set up Robbie Gould's 38-yard field goal in overtime for a 23-20 Bears victory.
That connection took a pinpoint throw and a leaping grab. Yet lost in the highlight were the thoughts that had run through both playmakers' minds.
McCown, the selfless backup thrilled to be contributing, had longed for an opportunity like Sunday's and proceeded over the final drive with his trademark eagerness bubbling over. He told his offensive linemen and receivers — almost to their amusement — to seize the moment, to create a memory they could talk about for years.
"That puts me at ease," McCown said. "So I don't know if I'm talking to them as much as I'm talking to myself, just saying, 'Hey, guys, we're going to do this together.' … It was a chance to be special."
Bennett? Through regulation, he had more false starts (two) than catches (one). And over the last month and a half, his production in the passing game had slid as receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and running back Matt Forte continue to trump him in the pecking order.
Bennett considers himself a patient person but admitted he has felt some competitive anxiousness rapping at the door to his demons.
"My whole thing is I don't want to be a J.A.G., which is 'Just A Guy,'" Bennett said. "And it's easy to become that in this offense. … So it's a constant battle mentally and physically. You go to work and you keep chipping away and you try to make the most of the chances that you do get. Because you don't know how many you will get."
The way it went, the Bears had a first-and-10 from their 35 in overtime when McCown heard the play call that produced immediate optimism from the sideline. Injured quarterback Jay Cutler made eye contact.
"And he was just smiling," McCown said
The 6-foot-6 Bennett found himself one-on-one in the slot, operating against 5-10 cornerback Lardarius Webb. Obvious height advantage: Check.
"I felt the speed advantage," Bennett added.
Both advantages surfaced with Bennett snatching the ball over Webb.
The Bears' longest play also was arguably their most important. Three snaps later, Gould snuck his winning kick just inside the right upright and the Bears had fought off the weather and the Ravens and a rash of penalties (13 in all) to edge back into a first-place tie with the Lions in the NFC North.
Sunday's victory required grit and perseverance. But the Bears also needed big plays any way they could get them.
So on a squally and unpredictable day, perhaps it was fitting that a rookie defensive end scored the team's first touchdown with David Bass' interception and 24-yard return tying the game at 10 in the second quarter and supplying a welcome jolt of energy.
"We needed that," said linebacker Jon Bostic, who added his own pick soon after. "That was really the turning point in that game."
Julius Peppers energized the defense, contributing two sacks and two other tackles for a loss.
Matt Forte score the offense's only touchdown, fighting across the goal line for a 14-yard score off a screen to provide a 20-17 lead with 10:33 left.
Gould? On a messy field, he made all three of his field-goal attempts, including the game-ender.
An ugly day finished with a relieving result. And it fulfilled McCown's wish for the Bears to do something exceptional together.
"We just talked about the opportunity," McCown said. "You have opportunities in life, rare opportunities to do some special things. We were sitting in front of one of those today."
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