Too embarrassed to ask for playoff money, George sits behind the wheel of the idling Vista Cruiser in the driveway of the Des Plaines ancestral home, no doubt wearing the threadbare Bears sweater he’s owned since he was a ball boy in Rensselaer, several sizes too small now, pounding the dashboard like Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, waiting, hoping the call comes from the NFL office that will allow him to make the short drive to the Lee Street post office where he’ll mail the playoff invoices that lay in wait in the back with the Pitney Bowes stamp already affixed.
Who knows? It still could happen, although it would take a jump into the top wild card spot, a bunch of road wins in the playoffs and some help to bring it about. They’re only two games behind that top spot, currently owned by the same Giants who pay a visit here next weekend after letting the Vikings pillage them yesterday. Who says I’m not an optimist? The Bears may not lose another game all season!
And lookie there - it took four years, but Lovie Smith finally managed to forge a winning record against the AFC, going 3-1 this year against the feeble AFC West. That’s coaching for you!
There were 28 ticks left on the clock when Bernard Berrian made his spectacular diving, twisting catch in the endzone and the guy in the booth punched the button to review what was essentially the Bears’ entire season, but our guys had somehow tied the game on the way to one of their most improbable victories in recent memory.
Two touchdown returns might have gone for naught if the Broncos only knew how to line up for a punt, but without seven guys on the line the Bears made them try again, and on their second attempt Peanut Tillman raced in from Todd Steroidbum’s right and completely smothered the redo, the play of the day in my book. (Ironically, the last Bear to block a punt was Bobbie Howard, the same guy who recovered the onside kick in the Bears last improbable home comeback win against the Browns back in 2001.) And for a change the Bears made the best of the opportunity, covering the 18 yards in four plays to draw within seven, the final four coming off a left tackle scrum worthy of the All Blacks.
Having spent most of the afternoon perfecting his helicopter move (albeit one with a broken rotor), Fred Miller was finally benched when he succumbed to the “boo” move. After knocking Miller on his ass with a bullrush on the previous play, Broncos defensive end Tim Crowder faked the move again and Miller stood straight up as if trying to wall him off, only to have Crowder dart to his right unimpeded and sack Rex Grossman, forcing the Bears final turnover of the day in the process. That was two plays after the Bears managed their initial first down of the second half, with about nine minutes left in regulation and trailing by 14.
Grossman played only OK, his rating suffering from another handful of drops although none of those were by the opposition. His sole interception came on a deep ball to Berrian, whose failure to play even a little defense on the throw earned him a spot on the bench for the next series and proved that Mark Bradley still owns a uniform.
Even Dave Toub, the special teams guru who orchestrates the Devin Hester return symphony, wasn’t immune from brain cramps, sending four guys deep on a punt to form a wedge. The confused Broncos burned their final timeout at the sight, but Mike Shanahan still couldn’t figure out that the best way to combat that return formation would be to run a fake with the ten guys he had in to block the six Bears left at the line. No matter; the Bears handled the punt like a hot potato, watching it slam into the ground somewhere between Hester and his quartet of blockers before it rattled off Hester’s shins. Luckily, Hester managed to fall on the loose ball before any white jerseys showed up.
But it seemed like everybody got a chance to atone for their mistakes; Miller, pushing the scrum from behind on Adrian Peterson’s rushing touchdown, Berrian, with his catch to tie the game, Hester, with his two touchdown returns after looking like he was trying to stop a bounce pass from sailing out of bounds on the Broncos first punt, and Grossman, with a handful of sharp passes on the Bears’ final three drives, including a sweet loft to Desmond Clark for 39 yards on the first snap of overtime (although he was lucky to get a do-over in regulation from Dré Bly’s lethal illegal contact penalty when his 4th and nine pass to Muhsin Muhammad was just out of reach).
OK, so maybe we shouldn’t be so optimistic. After all, the Bears only ran 13 plays from scrimmage during their first four possessions of the second half, two of which ended with Grossman fumbles. I don’t know whose fault that is, but the guy in the seats next to mine had a great suggestion. We should all show up early next Sunday and soap the windows of the booth where Ron Turner calls the plays. Then we’ll watch while the quarterback, Pep Hamilton or Lovie Smith call the plays as everybody on the sideline bickers about who gets credit. If they work.
Aren’t you glad you use Dial? Don’t you wish everybody did?