Work in Sports
Saved by a Bear paw
Last-second blocked field goal preserves win for Bears
Posted: Sunday November 07, 1999 06:51 PM
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The Chicago Bears were certain Walter Payton was watching, and they were certain he was proud.
Bryan Robinson blocked Ryan Longwell's 28-yard field-goal attempt as time expired, and the Bears snapped a 10-game losing streak against the archrival Green Bay Packers with a 14-13 victory at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
"I think Walter Payton picked me up because I can't jump that high," said Robinson, who swatted away Longwell's kick and gave the Bears their first win at Lambeau since 1992. "I just got my hand on that leather, and it felt so good . . . It's for you, Walter."
The Bears were playing their first game since Payton, the league's leading career rusher and the soul of Chicago football for 13 seasons, died Monday. Wearing blue-and-orange football-shaped patches inscribed with Payton's No. 34 on their left shoulders, the Bears (4-5) snapped a three-game losing streak, celebrating wildly on the field afterward.
In the 157th meeting between the NFL's oldest rivals, Brett Favre drove the Packers 73 yards in the game's last 3:19 to set up Longwell's attempt. Favre started his 117th consecutive game, breaking Ron Jaworski's record for consecutive starts by a quarterback.
Favre, who threw last-minute touchdown passes to win each of the Packers' first three home games this season, directed a 14-play drive that put the ball on the Chicago 10 with seven seconds left.
But unlike the Packers' strategy in their first three game-winning drives, coach Ray Rhodes didn't try to score a touchdown, instead positioning the ball for the field goal. After a low snap, Longwell got the kick off cleanly, but Robinson, the Bears' starting defensive end, blocked it with one hand.
Chicago owed its victory to a strong defensive effort and a markedly improved rushing game, but the Bears also played on an emotional high. The team attended a memorial service for Payton in Chicago on Saturday.
A banner behind the Bears bench said it all: "Win one for Walter."
"It was an honor for us to wear the patch today," said rookie Bears coach Dick Jauron, who coached defensive backs in Green Bay for nine seasons. "You've got to believe he had a hand in the final play."
Third-string quarterback Jim Miller, the sixth-year journeyman who didn't play a down in the previous two years and had just 22 pass attempts this season, led the Bears to the win after rookie starter Cade McNown sprained his right knee in the first quarter.
Miller threw three interceptions but was 16-of-29 for 142 yards, while Chicago's 160 rushing yards kept the ball moving. Both teams ran simple, short-yardage offenses, which made for a dull game until the thrilling finish.
The Packers (4-4) lost for the third time in four games, having scored just one touchdown in all three losses. Green Bay has lost consecutive home games for the first time since 1991, the year before Mike Holmgren became coach and the team's rebirth began.
"This one right here is as ugly as it gets for me," Rhodes said. "[It was] a game we should win, and we didn't."
Green Bay's locker room was "a ghost town," in the words of receiver Antonio Freeman, after the game. Rhodes said the coaching staff discussed allowing Favre, who was 27-of-40 for 267 yards, to try for the end zone, but they elected to kick the field goal instead.
Glyn Milburn ran untouched 49 yards through the Packers defense for the game's first score late in the first quarter. Chicago's other TD came late in the third quarter, when Bobby Engram caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Miller.
Tyrone Davis scored the Packers' only touchdown on a 7-yard catch late in the first half.
The Packers trailed 14-10 entering the fourth, but Green Bay got a 26-yard field goal from Longwell with 11 minutes left and got the ball back from the Bears at the Green Bay 17 with 3:19 left after Chris Boniol shanked a 34-yard field-goal attempt. Ironically, had Boniol made the kick, the Packers would have been forced to go for the end zone on the final drive instead of playing for a field goal.
Longwell said the snap, the hold and his hit on the final kick were all good, but Robinson batted the ball down rather easily. Longwell also had a field goal blocked and returned 61 yards for a touchdown by the Seattle Seahawks in last week's 27-7 loss.
"I hit the ball pretty good, but I need a lane to kick it through, and obviously somebody made a great play," Longwell said. "Sometimes things just happen that you can't explain."
Notes: The Bears successfully challenged a 24-yard reception by Green Bay tight end Jeff Thomason on a fourth-down play deep inside Chicago territory in the third quarter. Replay officials ruled Thomason hadn't established possession before fumbling the ball out of bounds, and the Bears killed the Packers' best drive to that point . . . Shortly before kickoff, Bears owners Ed and Virginia McCaskey joined commissioner Paul Tagliabue at midfield, and the Lambeau Field crowd observed a moment of silence for Payton.