The crowd of 62,260 came to see a coronation of the Bears as the NFC's top seed. They got that. The crown was just a little askew.
And the NFC kings could not have cared less.
With a 34-31 overtime victory Sunday over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Bears won their 12th game for the first time since 1988. Their 12-2 record, along with New Orleans' loss to Washington, means the Bears will play all their playoff games in January at Soldier Field.
In the process, however, they supplied doubters ample grist. They allowed the NFL's worst offense to score 31 points, matching the most they'd given up all season. With the 27 scored by St. Louis, the defense has allowed 790 yards293 of them in Sunday's second halfand 58 points in a week.
The Bears squandered a 24-3 halftime lead and gave up their longest scoring runs and passes of the season. They allowed four sacks. Their kicker missed a game-winning field-goal attempt. And their kick returner fumbled three times.
To which there was a collective: So what?
"It was a win," linebacker Brian Urlacher said wearily. "I'm tired of worrying about yardage, point totals and all that. I'm worrying about winning."
A reasonable point. New Orleans gave up only 16 to Washington but lost. Looking ahead to where the Bears hope to be in a month and a half, defensive end Alex Brown reasoned: "If we get in the Super Bowl and give up 49 points, who cares as long as we score 50? We'd be Super Bowl champs. What does it matter?"
It won't matter as long as the Bears can keep getting impact plays when they need them, which was the case Sunday.
Tampa Bay (3-11) rallied from a three-touchdown halftime deficit to tie it 31-31 in the fourth quarter on scoring passes from backup quarterback Tim Rattay to Joey Galloway for 64 yards and Ike Hilliard for 44, the longest scoring passes against the Bears this season.
After a punt and penalty left the Bears with a first down on their 10 with 1 minute 17 seconds to go, coach Lovie Smith elected to let the final 40 seconds elapse and go to overtime.
Tampa Bay won the toss but fumbled on its second play to give the Bears the ball at the Tampa 22. But Robbie Gould's third-down field-goal attempt from 37 yards was wide left.
The defense then held the Bucs without a first down on two possessions, finally ending up with the ball at the 50 with six minutes left. Rashied Davis' acrobatic catch for 28 yards followed by an 11-yard run by Adrian Peterson, gave Gould another shot, which the Bears took on first down from the Tampa Bay 7. Gould made up for his earlier miss with a 25-yarder, the second winner of his career.
While the Bears were not overly concerned about yards or points allowed, neither were they overly impressed with themselves holding home-field advantage in the playoffs.
"We haven't won anything, just a game," cornerback Charles Tillman said. "I don't have a ring on, a Super Bowl ring. We want to win out, and until that's done, we haven't won anything at all."
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