This was a game about taking blows and still answering bells. About accepting what you are given instead of trying to impose your will. About waiting, waiting, waiting for just the right opening.
And then pouncing.
The Bears never led the Steelers until 15 ticks remained on the clock Sunday. And then Robbie Gould made it all good with a 44-yard field goal that gave the Bears a 17-14 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers.
One battle between two players captured the essence of the game.
In the second quarter, trailing by seven points, Bears tight end Greg Olsen streaked past a Steelers linebacker and created enough space for what he thought could have been a big play, a 45-yard touchdown.
But sneaky Tyrone Carter was laying for him from his free safety position on the left sideline, and the explosive mighty-mite unloaded everything he had on the middle of Olsen's chest.
It was a make-you-wince moment.
Olsen was staggered, the ball knocked from him as well as his wind and possibly his senses. He stayed on all fours trying to regain his breath. After a while, it came back to him. As he got up and walked off the field, his heroism was acknowledged by the soggy fans at Soldier Field.
Carter, too, was slow getting up. He injured his thigh on the play and required some medical attention before he could return to the game.
Olsen, like his team, was down, but not out. Carter, like his team, was not about to let up.
They would meet again, in similar fashion.
In the fourth quarter, trailing by seven points, Olsen shook a linebacker again over the middle and went deep. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler hit him in stride.
Guess who was waiting for him? Another loud and painful collision followed, but this time Olsen hung on to the ball for a 29-yard gain that gave the Bears the ball on the Steelers' 23.
"The first one was a great hit," Olsen said. "The next time, I won."
But the story didn't end there. Five plays later, the Bears motioned into an empty backfield with the ball on the Pittsburgh 7. That forced Carter into man-to-man coverage against wide receiver Johnny Knox.
One problem. He still couldn't move well because his thigh was never right after the first Olsen hit. Knox easily got open and scored on a 7-yard touchdown that tied the score at 14-14.
"I kind of hurt my team by not coming out of the game or by not calling a timeout," said Carter, who was starting in place of injured Troy Polamalu. "I knew, with my leg, I couldn't cover him. No excuses."
Like Olsen, the Bears were staggered early. On their first possession, the Steelers put together a 13-play, 92-yard touchdown drive, making it look easy.
"I don't know if we understood the level of play with those guys," said defensive end Alex Brown, who had a pair of sacks on the day. "They're really good."
Brown got the memo. On the Steelers' second possession, he may have prevented another touchdown when he hit quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as he was going deep. The result was a dying duck of a throw that ended up in the arms of Bears cornerback Charles Tillman.
The Bears' defense tightened up after that, and the offense went to work.
They scored when Cutler found backup tight end Kellen Davis for a 6-yard touchdown pass to cap a 97-yard drive.
In his Chicago debut, Cutler didn't show off that magnificent arm. But that was a good thing. Unlike his performance in Green Bay, Cutler did not try to force the ball downfield, instead taking what the Steelers' defense was offering.
That meant a lot of check-down passes and only two completions of more than 20 yards. But that 104.7 passer rating sure was pretty.
"We stressed all week taking the check-downs," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "Take your shots if you have them, but if it's not there, get the ball in the flat."
The Bears got a little lucky because the normally dependable Jeff Reed was wide left on two field-goal attempts. Then they made their own luck with Gould.
"Any time you have your team storming you after a kick, it's a great feeling," Gould said.
It was a well-deserved feeling for a team that played hard and smart.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun