Finally. No other one word sums up the feeling the Chicago Bears had when they mustered their first victory of the season over visiting Oakland on Sunday.
This script was almost identical to the last time these two teams squared off back in Chicago 12 years ago as Soldier Field debuted its major renovations.
On that day it was Paul Edinger that kicked a game-winning field goal for the Bears, but this time around it was the team's all-time leading scorer Robbie Gould who nailed a 48-yarder to upend the Raiders 22-20.
Gould's 12th game-winning field goal of his career was a nice reflection of the good ole days when the Bears simply won by fighting their way until the end.
"Michael Jordan never said he didn't want the ball at the end of the game," Gould said via Chicagobears.com. "When he passed, he probably didn't like passing. When you get in situations like that, that's your opportunity as a kicker to kind of earn the respect in the locker room and earn the respect of your teammates."
Outside of a blocked extra point on the Bears' opening touchdown of the game in the first quarter, Gould and the special teams unit was solid on the day. The game-winner was his third boot of the afternoon and it came on the 12-play, 48-yard drive that was highlighted by some big catches by tight end Martellus Bennett and third-year receiver Marquess Wilson.
Bennett saves the day
Starting at their own 20-yard-line on the final drive of the afternoon, Matt Forte ran for six yards on first down, Jay Cutler was sacked on second down and he missed his target Josh Bellamy on third. Then on 4th-and-5, Cutler completed a great throw to Bennett with a defender in Keenan Lambert draped all over him.
The seven-yard catch kept the Bears' hopes alive. Wilson had a bad drop on the following play, but made up for it with a six-yard catch for a first down and a nine-yard grab to put the Bears inside the Oakland 40-yard line. Forte ran up the middle to line the kick up on the next play and the rest was history.
Bennett finished the day with a team-high 11 receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown which came back in the second quarter. It was a big game for the Bears' starting tight end as only a drive later Cutler was picked off on a pass attempt to him from the Oakland 23-yard-line on 3rd-and-1.
Cutler bounced back after that ugly throw off his back foot which led to a Sebastian Janikowski field goal late in the fourth quarter. Cutler showed poise on the way to his first win of the season and 22nd career game-winning drive.
"Jay is a tough son of a buck. Lesser guys may not have been out there," head coach John Fox told the Sun-Times. "All in all he played outstanding. Hats off to him."
For the Bears, they won the time of possession battle (33:22 - 26:38) as they outgained Oakland 371 yards to 243. Cutler rose to the occasion on third down, converting 9-of-14 for 148 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Outside of that bad interception intended for a wide open Bennett, Cutler fared well in his return to action after missing the 26-0 shutout in Seattle last Sunday.
Wilson led the Bears' receivers with six grabs for 80 yards, including a 35-yard catch and run in the early going. Royal had seven receptions for 54 yards and a seven-yard touchdown in the first quarter, his first as a Bear.
Forte had an uncharacteristic fumble and a botched snap from fill-in center Matt Slauson allowed Oakland to score 10 points off the two turnovers. In total, the Raiders added 13 of their 20 points off three Bears turnovers.
Slauson played solid for a guy being forced into the center spot after Will Montgomery left with what was announced as a broken fibula after the game. Rookie Hroniss Grasu will be active next week as the Bears figure out things up front.
Cutler was sacked three times and had a pretty clean pocket even with Patrick Omameh coming in at left guard and Vlad Ducasse asked to do even more at right guard this week. Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. was surprisingly steady in his first career start after he gave up one sack to Aldon Smith in the first half.
Forte totaled 155 yards on 29 touches (25 runs, four catches) as he averaged 3.6 yards per carry. He had some clutch catches down the stretch including a 38-yarder.
Pernell McPhee made a heck of a play on the ball as Raiders back Latavius Murray tipped a pass attended for him and McPhee reeled in the interception. It was his first interception as a Bear and only the second for the defense this season. That turned into three points before the half to put the Bears ahead 16-14.
The starting outside linebacker was very active for the second straight week as he led the team with eight tackles, which included seven solo stops. McPhee's really starting to get comfortable in Vic Fangio's defense and it's showing.
Sam Acho later recovered a Murray fumble on a pitch back attempt by Derek Carr. The Bears' offense failed to capitalize as it turned into the drive that ended with the Cutler interception.
Jarvis Jenkins added a sack, his third of the season and rookie Eddie Goldman didn't give up on the play as he was relentless in pursuit of his first sack of his career.
Cornerback Tracy Porter drew the start over a banged up Alan Ball and for the Bears that was a good thing. Porter held his own as he shadowed rookie phenom Amari Cooper. Cooper had no catches in the second half after recording four grabs for 49 yards and a score in the first half.
Kyle Fuller had a solid outing with four tackles and wasn't caught of position much. Nickelback Sherrick McManis was. On the Cooper touchdown in the second quarter McManis was beat bad and safety Antrel Rolle was late on the help.
McManis should be replaced by Ball next week. Alongside Porter and Fuller they would make for the best trio of cornerbacks in my opinion for the Bears.
Porter was called for an imaginary illegal use of the hands call that kept the Raiders third quarter drive alive following Forte's fumble. They turned that into three points. Expect to see the Bears send that play into the league office.
Injury update: For Rolle, he suffered an ankle injury. Rolle didn't break it and was in a boot afterward, so the hope is he can return soon. Undrafted rookie Harold Jones-Quartey joined Adrian Amos in the secondary and did a nice job in the place of Rolle in the second half.
The Bears travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs (1-3), who have lost three straight games and will be looking to return to the win column at home.
Note: For what it's worth, I had the Bears winning 21-20 in Sunday's game, they squeezed out a 22-20 victory instead.
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