Bears do well on very little solid ground
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Players leave the field early in the first quarter Sunday as play was suspended for damaging storms that hit the Chicago area and beyond.
Bears coach Marc Trestman never had experienced a situation like the one he and his team endured Sunday at Soldier Field.
But some of his players had, and they handled the elements better than the Baltimore Ravens in a 23-20 overtime victory.
During pregame warmups the temperature was a balmy 68 degrees with a comparatively gentle wind. Shortly after the noon kickoff, conditions deteriorated rapidly. A soft rain quickly intensified; the wind accelerated to gusts reaching 35-40 mph. Thunder and lightning, along with the potential for more severe weather, forced a suspension of the game with 4:51 remaining in the first quarter.
Fans at Soldier Field were instructed to seek shelter in the concourses of the stadium. Players retreated to the locker room.
One hour and 53 minutes later, the game resumed.
"We had one up north, up in Canada, where we had a storm that forced us to delay the start of the game for half an hour," said Trestman, who coached the Montreal Alouettes for five years before he became the Bears' coach. "But nothing like this. Ever."
Rookie Kyle Long had a similar experience in high school.
"It was such a long delay we went to the corner store and got sandwiches and came back," Long said. "I was in my football pants and a sweatshirt. But Trestman wouldn't let us go to Subway, so we just stayed focused here and stayed prepared. We kept it light and had a good stretch before we went back out."
Quarterback Josh McCown had to go back to his days at Sam Houston State to recall similar circumstances.
"My senior year, which seems like a long time ago," the 34-year-old said. "We were down at Nicholls State in Thibodaux, La. We were in the second or third quarter, and it was a 2½-3-hour delay. We were able to come out after that and get the win. I thought about that today. It was a crazy day."
Before the rains came, McCown completed 2 of 4 passes for 1 yard and was sacked once. There was a fumbled snap, which McCown recovered. After the weather-induced intermission his passer rating was 100.1, giving him a 92.1 mark for the game, his fourth straight over 90.
After stretching and relaxing when they found out how long the delay would be, wide receivers coach Mike Groh, McCown and most of the skill-position players conducted an informal walk-through in the locker room.
"The hiccups that we had on the first series were just stupid," McCown said. "It was just, 'Let's take a deep breath here. Let's go back and not shoot ourselves in the foot and come out better.'"
After that it was just a matter of dealing with a sloppy field, sloshing around in the mud and taking giant divots out of the turf that had to be replaced by the grounds crew during timeouts.
"There was definitely some backyard football going on," Long said. "It was fun to get nasty out there, but then there's a few plays we said, 'Man, I just wish we had some solid footing.' When you're on the ground after the play because you're sliding 6-7 yards, it can be fun, but it can be no fun."
Going into the wind, McCown did not attempt a pass in the third quarter but had had a 147.0 passer rating in the fourth quarter and overtime, when the Bears were with the wind.
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