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NFL Recap (Chicago-Tennessee)

Posted: Sun October 25, 1998 at 11:07 p.m. EST


NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Jeff Jaeger kicked a 33-yard field goal with 63 seconds left and the Chicago Bears blocked the Tennessee Oilers' disorganized tying attempt to post a 23-20 victory.

Jaeger, whose 29-yard kick last week with 11 seconds left beat the Dallas Cowboys, split the uprights with his third field goal of the game after a seven-yard TD run by Tennessee's Rodney Thomas tied it at 20-20 with 3:44 remaining.

The Oilers took over with less than a minute to go and with the aid of a hook-and-ladder play that gained 24 yards, drove down to the Bears 31.

But with 23 seconds remaining, confusion reigned and the wrong kicker ran on for the final try. It was Craig Hentrich's 49-yard attempt that went straight into the line while Al Del Greco, the regular kicker, ran on late and earned his team a penalty for too many men on the field that was declined.

"When Willie caught the ball I was under the impression that that was first down so I walked back to warm up, thinking that we were going to run another play so we could get closer. But then I heard them yelling for Dave to get in there, so I started running over. I tried to run on the field, but I saw Craig was on there to kick it, so I tried to run off, because we had talked about how far we needed to get for me to try it and for him to try it. I should have known better. I thought it was a first down. It obviously wasn't, so I was the one that messed up, and I apologize."

"It was almost like a big panic out there. I don't know why, but there was a lot of confusion," said Hentrich. "I was getting ready to hold, then I saw Craig run on to the field, so I assumed it was my turn to kick. I have never seen anything like it. It was such a confusing play because some people thought it was a first down, some thought he stayed in bounds, so it was just mass confusion. I didn't know if it was panic, but people didn't do their job as they were supposed to."

It was the first road win of the season for the Bears (3-5), who have won three of four games since starting the season with four losses. Three of those losses -- to Jacksonville, Pittsburgh and Minnesota -- have come by a total of nine points. Those three teams have a combined record of 16-3.

"This has been the story of our season, really," said Bears coach Dave Wannstedt. "Our offense really stopped themselves a couple of times. That was the only disappointing thing. We really weren't in there. We got the delay of game, turnover inside the 20, but our defense rose up and played a good game."

"We lost a couple that we should have won. Today we were fortunate to catch a couple breaks ourselves," said Bears quarterback Erik Kramer. "Hopefully all those things even out, but I think we are a pretty decent team, obviously better than what a lot of people had us slated to be. Obviously winning on the road, winning two games in a row, was a huge lift for us and that hasn't happened around here in a while, especially this stage of the season."

Eddie George ran for 137 yards on 21 carries for his fourth 100-yard game of the season and 16th of his career.

"What can I say? It is extremely frustrating when you didn't expect to lose," said George. "Even though we were 10 points down, I don't think anyone on that sideline believed we were going to lose. And it's especially frustrating the way it ended."

Kramer completed just 13-of-24 passes for 144 yards. After a 47-yard kickoff return by Glyn Milburn put the ball at the Chicago 45 after Thomas' score, Kramer found Curtis Conway for 18 yards to start the decisive scoring drive. Faced with a 3rd-and-9 at the Oilers 23, Kramer scrambled for eight yards to set up Jaeger's winning kick.

Enis and a pair of seldom-used fullbacks carried the running load for the Bears. Enis carried 21 times for 85 yards while Chancey and Hallock had one rush apiece that both went for scores. Edgar Bennett added 45 yards on 14 carries.

Chicago scored 17 of its points off turnovers. It got its first big break in the opening quarter when defensive end John Thierry recovered a fumble by wide receiver Chris Sanders and ran it 11 yards to the Oilers 1.

Chancey went straight ahead on the next play for the score 3:05 into the game.

Del Greco and Jaeger exchanged second-quarter field goals of 29 and 39 yards, respectively, before Steve McNair found Derrick Mason for a 13-yard score with 24 seconds left in the first half for the tie. McNair was 5-for-6 for 56 yards and rushed for 24 yards on the nine-play, 79-yard drive.

The Bears kicked away to start the third quarter but Mike Archie fumbled and Ricky Bell recovered, giving Chicago a first down at the 24. Five plays later, Hallock took a draw in from the 6 for a seven-point lead.

Jaeger kicked a 26-yarder with 5:16 left in the third for a 20-10 edge. The Oilers drew back within a touchdown on a 19-yarder by Del Greco 88 seconds into the final period and Thomas evened the game with his run.

Thomas broke a tackle in the backfield, colliding with cornerback Walt Harris at the 2 and bulling him into the end zone.

McNair, who was without injured top receiver Yancey Thigpen, completed 18-of-29 passes for 187 yards and an interception. He threw for 37 of those yards on the final drive, which included a lateral from tight end Michael Roan to Thomas that put the ball at the Bears 38. After taking sack and throwing incomplete, McNair hit Willie Davis to set up the final kick.

"You just can't turn the ball over as many times as we did and expect to win," said McNair. "That was the key. We fought back and overcame a lot of things in this ball game, but in the end we just didn't do the right things it took team-wise to score a field goal."

© 1998 Sportsticker Enterprises, LP

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