As bad as the Bears looked for most of Monday night, the stunning manner in which they stole a 24-23 victory from the Arizona Cardinals only enhanced the perception that this might be their year.
On a night when Rex Grossman turned the ball over six times, the Bears got two touchdowns from their defense and an 83-yard punt return from Devin Hester to erase a 20-point deficit.
Maybe it was the players-only talk at halftime that began with Olin Kreutz telling teammates it was time to take care of business.
"I wasn't the only one talking," Kreutz said. "And Brian Urlacher wasn't going to lose that game. He willed our team to victory in the second half. It's about time people realized how truly great he is."
Urlacher and the defense produced their first two touchdowns of the season. Hester then provided the winning points with his second TD punt return of the season as the Bears made NFL history, becoming the first team to rally from 20 points down without an offensive touchdown.
The indications of trouble were almost immediate. Grossman overthrew a wide-open Bernard Berrian on the game's first play to give away a sure TD, then nearly threw an interception that cornerback Robert Tate dropped with nothing but open field in front of him. Then Arizona administered the kind of battering the Bears have not experienced this season. From their 23, the Cardinals needed only one third-down conversion to go 77 yards for the first first-quarter touchdown against the Bears this seasonan 11-yard pass from Matt Leinart to Bryant Johnson. Grossman later underthrew Muhsin Muhammad and was intercepted by Aaron Francisco, who returned it 44 yards to the Chicago 25. Three plays later, the Cardinals placed Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin in the slot and found him one-on-one with Brian Urlacher, who missed the open-field tackle as Boldin scored to put Arizona up 14-0.
What went right: Virtually nothing. Tight end Desmond Clark went up to get a Grossman pass for a 26-yard completion, accounting for 60 percent of the Bears' first-quarter yardage and their only first down.
What went wrong: Leinart completed eight of his first nine passes for a passer rating of 142.8 and two TDs.Quote: "If [Leinart] moves slightly to the left or right, he buys time and can get the ball off. It's a game of inches. He's pretty good. He's not throwing like a rookie quarterback." Defensive end Alex Brown
Grossman's misery continued with a terrible throw into coverage that was easily intercepted by middle linebacker Gerald Hayes and returned 23 yards to the Chicago 29. The Cardinals were kind enough to commit two false starts on their first two snaps, killing the drive and forcing a field-goal attempt that missed. But suddenly the pass offense that was fourth in the NFL in yardage could generate nothing and was in full collapse.
Twice the Cardinals sacked Grossman, both times causing fumbles to equal the total number of lost fumbles by the Bears all season.
Defensive end Bertrand Berry got around the protection of left tackle John Tait for a sack, forced a fumble and got the recovery that set up a 41-yard Neil Rackers field goal for a 17-0 lead with 4:15 remaining.
On the Bears' next possession, safety Adrian Wilson blitzed and got to Grossman, knocking the ball loose for a fumble that was recovered by defensive tackle Darnell Dockett.
A 19-yard Leinart completion to Boldin put the ball at the Chicago 13, and Rackers finished that possession with a 28-yard field goal as time expired.
What went right: Rackers missed a 52-yard field goal on a drive that started from the Bears' 29. Other than that ...
What went wrong: See fumbles, interceptions above.
Quote: "They're extremely athletic and run a lot of different looks. We've got to be real smart with our rules, especially our protection rules, and make plays." Grossman, who was burned for four turnovers in the first half and narrowly avoided two other interceptions in a half that saw him finish with a passer rating of 17.2.
The Bears forced an Arizona punt to start the quarter and then Grossman and the receivers finally went to work.
A 12-yard completion to Clark, a 16-yarder to Rashied Davis and a subsequent 11-yarder to Davis for a third-down conversion preceded a 17-yard completion to Bernard Berrian that moved the ball to the Arizona 3-yard line. But Jason McKie was stopped for a 2-yard loss, Grossman was forced into a throwaway and a pass to Berrian in the back of the end zone went incomplete, forcing the Bears to settle for a Robbie Gould field goal, his 18th straight this season.
The Bears forced another punt, but Dante Wesley was called for roughing the kicker. The Cardinals retained possession and drove to a 29-yard Rackers field goal that restored their 20-point lead (23-3). Mark Anderson, making his first NFL start, subsequently jolted Leinart and half of Arizona with a blind-side, unblocked sack of the rookie QB, forcing a fumble that Mike Brown returned 3 yards for a TD and a 20-10 deficit late in the quarter.
What went right: The offense finally moved the ball through the air. The Anderson sack, giving him 6.5 for the season, enabled the defense to score its first TD of the season.
What went wrong: The Cardinals stymied the Bears inside the Arizona 5-yard line, thwarting a potential TD drive by forcing two incompletions to deprive the Bears of desperately needed momentum.
Quote: "Mike Brown kept saying, 'Believe it, believe it. This is going to be the best comeback ever.'"Rookie safety Danieal Manning
After a penalty-aided first down, Grossman misfired badly on four consecutive passes from the Arizona 27, sailing passes high over Berrian and Davis and then missing communication with Berrian on a third throw.
His fourth-down pass was deflected at the line and intercepted by defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who was tackled but cruised down the left sideline anyway for a score that required a Bears challenge to undo.
Grossman's interception total reached four on the Bears' next possession when safety Robert Griffith broke in front of Berrian, thwarting another Bears drive that crossed midfield but netted nothing.
But the defense bailed out the offense again as Urlacher ripped the ball out of Edgerrin James' hands and Charles Tillman picked it up and ran it back 40 yards.
Hester then sent America scurrying to turn its TVs back on as his second TD punt return of the season, this one for 83 yards, gave the Bears a 24-23 lead that held up when Neil Rackers was wide right on a 41-yard field-goal attempt in the game's final minute.
What went right: Credit the Bears' effort despite a night of recurring calamity. When the offense failed, the defense and special teams didn't.
What went wrong: Pro Bowl safety Mike Brown left the field limping with an injury to his right foot. He attempted to run after treatment from the Bears' medical staff but threw his helmet to the ground angrily and took a seat on the bench for the rest of the night.
Quote: "Urlacher went bananas in that second half. Nobody can beat us. We can only beat ourselves." Defensive tackle Tommie Harris.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun