Chris Chandler, like most veteran quarterbacks, has learned to negotiate that ambiguous line between playing with reckless abandon and resorting to caution and guile.
A half-dozen concussions, assorted broken bones and some sprained ankles are his badges of honor.
On Sunday the 37-year-old Bears quarterback relied on his 15 years of experience and the added protection of his patchwork offensive line to lead the Bears to a 20-13 upset of the New York Jets.
All last week, Chandler had heard assertions that he had forsaken his professionalism by "mailing it in" during the Bears' loss Monday at Miami.
"There's no doubt that Monday was a flat night for myself and many other guys," said Chandler, who was 22-of-27 for 177 yards Sunday. "But to jump to a conclusion that some people did ... it's just a joke. It's ridiculous. I haven't been in this league as long as I have by deciding on occasion just to quit."
Regardless of the Bears' disappointing season, Chandler says he continues to play hard for his teammates.
"I don't really listen to the radio or read the papers," Chandler said. "I just heard [the criticism] from other people. The season has been frustrating, no question. For everyone to take their frustrations out on me, that's really not fair. But I also have been in places where, [in] a season like this, nobody cares.
"I mean, the fans here are great and they care a lot. I've never been in a situation where the team is struggling and people are still caring about the team. I'm looking forward to next year and turning this thing around."
Chandler completed passes to seven different receivers. During the Bears' two straight touchdown drives, Chandler completed 9-of-10 passes, including eight in a row, for 66 yards. He finished with a passer rating of 94.0, his second highest of the season.
"Chris had a tremendous game, no doubt about it," Bears coach Dick Jauron said. "As the year has gone on, he has gotten more and more comfortable with our offense."
Chandler also benefited from a rare running attack. Leon Johnson, a former Jet, rushed for 56 yards on 15 carries and rookie Adrian Peterson ran for 39 yards on seven tries, including his first NFL touchdown.
"Adrian has looked good all year in practice," Chandler said. "The next step is to just get him some carries. He definitely hits that hole and showed some explosiveness. He's exciting."
The Bears did not turn the ball over.
"We were a little more aggressive on first down," Chandler said. "And the guys up front did a great job of blocking. Our whole offense starts with those guys."
Center Olin Kreutz, guards Kevin Dogins and Chris Villarrial and tackles Mike Gandy and James "Big Cat" Williams neutralized one of the most aggressive defensive lines in the NFL.
"Chandler did a great job out there," Williams said. "He got rid of the ball when he had to. He was able to go up to the line and talk to the players and let them know what was going on."
Marty Booker was Chandler's favorite target, with nine catches for 62 yards, improving his season totals to 88 and 1,144.
"Guys have been playing musical chairs for a while," Booker said. "Whoever's in there, you still have to make plays."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun