Bears bring Saints back to earth

October 28, 1991|By Fred Mitchell | Fred Mitchell,Chicago Tribune

NEW ORLEANS HC EFB — NEW ORLEANS -- It's a jungle out there, and the Chicago Bears are right in the middle of it after yesterday's improbable 20-17 victory over the previously unbeaten New Orleans Saints.

Winning was particularly difficult here in the Big Easy, where 68,591 screaming, costumed fans dumped their noise pollution into the Superdome.

"We didn't even get halfway through the woods today," said Bears coach Mike Ditka, emotionally spent 15 minutes after the game. "We just got a step into the woods and now all the animals are going to come right after us -- Lions and Vikings and all that."

The Detroit Lions (6-2), who beat Dallas 34-10, will be coming after the Bears (6-2) next Sunday at Soldier Field in a battle for sole possession of the NFC Central lead.

After appearing lost in a forest of offensive ineptness most of the game yesterday, the Bears put together a four-play, 52-yard scoring drive capped by a dramatic 12-yard touchdown pass from Jim Harbaugh to Tom Waddle with 54 seconds left.

The upset victory was the first by a Bears team over a 7-0 opponent in five tries. The four previous losses were against 7-0 Packers teams.

"I don't know what it proves," said Ditka. "But I think it proves that nobody quits on this team.

"If everybody says the Saints are as good as anybody, then I think we can play with the best of them. But we have to get much better on offense. I don't think there's any question about that."

Harbaugh had his toughest day of the season, completing only five of 22 passes for 61 yards. He was sacked three times, intercepted twice and pressured on almost every attempt.

"We had no time to throw the ball, which really took our passing game completely away," said Ditka. "When we did have time to throw it, Jim responded with good throws."

The Bears stuck it to the Saints after a shanked 12-yard punt set up the winning drive.

The Saints, who have outscored their opponents 41-0 in the first quarter this season, scored on a 65-yard pass from Bobby Hebert (27 of 39 for 291 yards and two TDs) to Floyd Turner (career-high nine catches for 179 yards) with 4:33 to go in the opening quarter.

The Bears got on the board with 6:59 left in the second quarter when Kevin Butler kicked a 34-yard field goal to cap a seven-play, 24-yard drive. Butler later nailed a season-long 48-yarder to pull the Bears to within 7-6 with 1:09 left in the half.

But Morten Andersen boomed a 60-yard field goal at the end of the half to give New Orleans a 10-6 lead. The line drive shot had at least 5 yards to spare. The kick was the second-longest in NFL history, trailing only former Saint Tom Dempsey's 63-yard field goal against the Detroit Lions.

The Bears regained the momentum early in the second half, however, capitalizing on a fumble by Dalton Hilliard after William Perry applied the hit to take a 13-10 lead.

The Saints regained the lead 17-13 in the third quarter on an 8-yard pass from Hebert to Turner after Vince Buck's second interception.

Neal Anderson, listed as doubtful late last week, did not start but quickly spelled Mark Green and wound up gaining 53 yards on 12 carries. He also caught two passes for 17 yards.

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