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Bears Pull Off Victory in Dramatic Fashion

By Marcin Chojnowski
On September 14, 2010

"A win is a win," said Chicago Bears Quarterback Jay Cutler, as they defeated the Detroit Lions 19 - 14 in an exhilarating season opener against the Detroit Lions. The Bears' victory however, did not come as easily as Cutler put it.

With 24 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter and the game on the line, Bears fans began to kick up a storm as Lions Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson appeared to have caught the go-ahead touchdown in front of a sell-out crowd at Soldier Field. Shortly after, the officiating staff ruled Johnson's catch incomplete and that the play would be reviewed.

For a couple minutes thereafter, fans of both teams stood up as one and held their breath as referee Gene Steratore reviewed Shaun Hill's intended pass to Johnson. 

"After review, the ruling on the field stands. It is an incomplete pass," said Steratore as Bears fans let out cheers of relief and Lions fans uttered in disbelief.

A wave of anticipation filled the air as the next two plays were intended to Johnson in the end-zone, but safety Daniel Manning knocked both passes away from the leaping receiver as the Lions turned the ball over on downs and the Bears sealed the win.

Because of a new rule that came into effect this NFL season, Johnson's apparent go ahead touchdown had to be ruled incomplete because he did not complete the process of the catch. After Johnson caught the ball in mid air, fell on his backside, and rolled over he held the ball out with one hand to keep it away from the defender as he hit the ground. When the ball impacted with the ground, the receiver let go of the football, thinking he had satisfied the rule and there would be a touchdown. 

When asked after the game what rule was applied during the booth review, referee Steratore informed, "The ruling is that in order for the catch to be completed, he has got to maintain possession of the ball throughout the entire process of the catch."

Lions Head Coach Jim Shwartz agreed with the call that was made, "The officials called it an incomplete pass. It's an incomplete pass. (…) The time I stand up here and start blaming officials for a loss is the time I don't need to be doing this anymore. We had chances to win the game."

The loss for the Lions however, was not their biggest concern as their young stud quarterback Matthew Stafford left the game late in the first half with a right shoulder separation caused by a blind-side sack by the Bears newest prize, Defensive End Julius Peppers, which delivered a huge blow to Detroit's offense. Backup Quarterback Shaun Hill filled in for Stafford, and failed to convert for more than one first down on a possession for nearly the entire second half and let the Bears loom right behind them on the scoreboard.
The road to the Bears first victory on the young 2010 season came with a lot more drama than most fans were anticipating against a subpar team that went 2-30 during the last two regular seasons.

During the Bears first possession of the game, the new Mike Martz system seemed to be working in perfect sync, aside from a perfect pass thrown to Wide Receiver Devin Aromashodu which was dropped in the end-zone. Cutler led the offense 65 yards down field and after coming up short on a third and goal rush by Matt Forte, the Bears settled for a field goal. This fluidness was short lived as the Bears turned the ball over on three of their next four drives and Chicago fans were given reason to worry.

The Bears quickly fell behind 14 - 3 midway through the second quarter due to an interception thrown by Cutler, fumbles by Matt Forte and Greg Olsen, as well as a couple of costly penalties by the Bears Defense that led to touchdown drives by the Lions.

"We moved the ball quite a bit throughout the game," said head coach Lovie Smith, "but it's a turnover game. That turnover ratio is always big on who wins the football game, and that hurt us quite a bit early on."

"If it wasn't turnovers, it was little things," Cutler said, "I think all of the guys in the huddle knew it. We are on the verge of becoming I think a very good offense. We've got to clear some things up."

In spite of this brief flash of last season's team, the offense never stopped attacking a Lions defense that ranked dead last a season ago and ended up outgaining the Lions 463 to 168 yardage wise. Jay Cutler threw for 372 yards, the second most of his career, as well as two touchdowns with one interception for a passer rating of 108.3 despite a yet again questionable offensive line that gave up four sacks and forced Jay Cutler out of the pocket continuously throughout the game. 

"There's going to be some things we've got to change and got to correct," spoke Jay Cutler of the offensive line.
Running Back Matt Forte had a strong showing after a disappointing injury plagued 2009 season. Even though Forte ran for a pedestrian 50 yards on 17 carries, he showed off his receiving skills as he caught seven passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns. The third year running back out of Tulane caught both of Cutler's touchdown passes - one an 89 yard screen play late in the second quarter, and the other, a 28 yard strike that proved to be the game winning catch.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears seemed solid throughout most of the game, forcing 3 turnovers and five three and outs on eight Lions drives until their final possession of the game.

The return of Brian Urlacher has given the initial indication that he is far from being an aged "over the hill" Middle Linebacker as he compiled eight tackles as well as a sack on the day. Lance Briggs added a team leading ten tackles, and a forced fumble / fumble recovery at the Detroit one yard line with just over ten minutes left in the game, which led to a questionable call by Lovie Smith to go for a touchdown on fourth and goal after the Bears failed to punch the ball in the end-zone on their three previous chances. 

At the time, the Monsters of the Midway were down 13 - 14 and a short field goal by the most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history, Robbie Gould, would have given the Bears the lead against a Lions team that was producing absolutely nothing on the offensive side of the football. 

Instead, Smith decided to go for the touchdown and the Bears failed to convert on fourth down as the ecstatic Lions defense sprinted off the field after their second goal line stand of the game.

"I felt like we were playing great defense and I just didn't feel good about having three points in that situation," Smith defended, "the worst-case scenario would have been for us not to get it and we still had them backed up. It was a field position game throughout. I'd make that call every time."

The Bears may have pulled off quite the dramatic victory this week against the Lions, but expect Tony Romo, Miles Austin, and the Dallas Cowboys to test the Bears in next weeks' important early season NFC match up in Cowboys Stadium.

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