Bears' ticket: 49-yarder in OT

Chicago advances to its first NFC championship game since 1988

Bears 27 Seahawks 24

NFC divisional playoff

Ravens Extra

January 15, 2007|By John Mullin | John Mullin,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears defensive end and resident philosopher Alex Brown reflected on the place yesterday's 27-24 overtime victory over the Seattle Seahawks might warrant.

"This game right here, it'll be an instant classic," Brown said after the win in the NFC divisional playoff game. "Great game. Somebody has to win and lose, and unfortunately ... "

Brown hesitated. There are, after all, limits to sportsmanship.

"No, fortunately, Seattle had to lose."

The Bears overcame some bad plays of their own and some very good plays by Seattle, then made enough great ones to advance to the NFC championship game. They're going there for the first time since 1988, the third and final time for the Bears of the Mike Ditka era.

The Bears led Seattle 21-14 at halftime yesterday, fell behind when the Seahawks scored 10 points in the third quarter, then tied the game with Robbie Gould's 41-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter before winning it with his 49-yarder in overtime.

In the process, the Bears moved out from under a cloud of doubt that hung stubbornly over the franchise because of losses after the 2001 and 2005 seasons, when the Bears were in the same spot - at home with a first-round bye.

"It's a monkey off our back to get that win," linebacker Brian Urlacher said.

For some Bears, it was a gorilla they threw off. Lovie Smith proved he could coach a team to a postseason victory. Rex Grossman put aside the criticism that had swirled about him since the season-ending nightmare against the Green Bay Packers, completing 21 of 38 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown despite severe pressure from a shifting Seattle front.

Grossman gave Bears fans what they wanted: a win and just a few bad passes.

More importantly, he gave his teammates what they wanted: a leader not afraid to win a game.

Grossman's seventh pass of the game was a 68-yard strike to Bernard Berrian for a second-quarter touchdown. His next-to-last one was a completion on third-and-10 for 30 yards to Rashied Davis in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal.

"People always talk about managing the game," center Olin Kreutz said. "Well, tonight if we had a quarterback who [just] managed the game, we wouldn't have come close to winning.

"That's why we like Rex so much.

"Rex ... is not there to just manage the game; he's there to win games," Kreutz said. "And we think we need him to win the Super Bowl, so that's why he's here."

The Bears piled up 371 yards of offense despite losing 31 on three sacks of Grossman. They gave up 108 rushing yards to 2005 season Most Valuable Player Shaun Alexander and lost momentum at times in a game they appeared to dominate early in front of a crowd of 55,525, many of whom had a little extra seating space because of 6,659 no-shows.

"[The no-shows] missed out on a great game," cornerback Charles Tillman said. "I have no clue why. But I didn't notice it because the other 60-whatever-thousand made up for it."

What lies before the Bears are the New Orleans Saints, before yesterday the last team the Bears had defeated in a home playoff game, in 1990.

"I think this was the hump we needed to get over and finish out this run, this season," running back Cedric Benson said. "We always talk about finishing. They don't remember how you start. They always remember how you finish."

John Mullin writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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