Julius Peppers sat in front of his locker and let the effects of the Bears’ 23-20 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens sink in.
“We need these games,” he said. “We need these games to build character with the young guys and get a win for us together.
“It was old-fashioned. It had that certain element to it, the muddy uniforms, everybody slipping and sliding around. It was fun. We don’t really want to do it anymore but it was fun today. It took us back.”
The win, sealed on a 38-yard field goal by Robbie Gould just inside the right upright at the end of a 60-yard drive on the first Bears first overtime possession, was indeed a character test.
Lots of them, in fact.
The victory also took the Bears (6-4) back into a win-loss tie with the Detroit Lions (6-4), who were losing in Pittsburgh to the Steelers. The Bears don’t hold the tiebreaker with the Lions but that didn’t seem to matter much in the aftermath of what more than one player termed “a throwback game.”
“It’s good to win when the Lions lose,” said wide receiver Brandon Marshall, whose antagonism toward the Lions bubbled up following the Bears’ loss to them last Sunday.
The game was held up for nearly two hours while two separate storms passed through town. That delay came in the first quarter when the Bears had fallen behind 10-0 and represented the first character test of the day for a shaky Bears team that was on its way to committing 13 penalties, including at least one on four of Baltimore’s first five possessions.
“That little ‘intermission’ turned out to be a blessing for us because it let us hit the reset button and start over,” Peppers said. “It was a chance for us to regroup and come out the way we wanted to play.”
The Bears trailed into the fourth quarter before Josh McCown flipped a screen pass to running back Matt Forte, who went 14 yards into the Baltimore end zone on second and third effort behind downfield blocks by Marshall and guard Matt Slauson.
Then came that character part again, as the Ravens, scoreless through the first 29:53 of the second half, drove to the Chicago 2-yard line with 36 seconds left. Safety Chris Conte stopped Ray Rice for a loss and cornerback Tim Jennings broke up a Joe Flacco pass to Torrey Smith in the back of the end zone. The Ravens had to settle for a field goal with 7 seconds left and the game belonged to the Bears in overtime.
A winning formula, present and future
The Bears won without Lance Briggs, Nate Collins, Jay Cutler, Shea McClellin, Henry Melton, Charles Tillman and D.J. Williams, Tillman going down for the rest of the regular season just last Sunday.
Why that mattered so much on Sunday, besides veteran quarterback Josh McCown continuing his run of turnover-free football (101 passes this season with five touchdowns, zero interceptions), and Matt Forte overcoming the elements for 125 net yards and a touchdown, was that it was accomplished with myriad young players giving what the franchise hopes was a preview.
Rookie defensive end David Bass got his hands up to intercept a Joe Flacco pass and return it 24 yards for a second-quarter touchdown. “It was definitely a confidence booster,” said Bass, cut by the Raiders and signed by the Bears just before the season. “As a rookie, there’s a lot of learning you’ve got to do. When you make a play like that, that’s huge.”
Fellow end Cheta Ozougwu, elevated from the practice squad with McClellin still out with a hamstring injury, had a fourth-down sack and strip of Flacco to end a drive.
Rookie middle linebacker Jonathan Bostic stayed with veteran tight end Dallas Clark in the deep middle to intercept Flacco. That interception turned into three points on a Gould field goal as the first half ended.
“[The defense] is just so detail-oriented,” said Bostic, the 2013 second-round pick rushed into the starting lineup after Williams’ season-ending chest injury. Bostic also was pivotal in turning back the Ravens inside the Chicago 5. “Gotta keep them out [of the end zone],” Bostic added. “Gotta hold them to three. That was our game plan down there. Bend but don’t break.”
And because of the amount of the Ravens ran with nickel personnel, Isaiah Frey was on the field extensively and continues to show real upside. At 6 feet, it is not a huge stretch to see him as a serious option to replace Tillman if the veteran corner does not return in 2014.
“It’s about adversity,” Marshall said. “It’s about moving on. Our team has done that from week one.”