Bears' defense to the rescue

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bears' Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs take down Kris Wilson.

      Bears' Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs take down Kris Wilson. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/17/2007 8:19 AM

This time the Bears' defense was able to overcome the opponent and its own floundering offense.

 

Another exceptional defensive effort, combined with a Rex Grossman touchdown pass to backup offensive tackle John St. Clair, the obligatory return touchdown by Devin Hester and a couple of Robbie Gould field goals were enough to get the Bears past the Chiefs 20-10 in Sunday's home opener.

The effort evened the defending NFC champions' record at 1-1 and reinforced the notion that the Bears can win a lot of games with their defense as long as their offense doesn't self-destruct.

The offense wasn't bad in the first half, but in the second half it accumulated 87 total yards, giving the defense an opportunity to prove its mettle.

That seems to be fine with the defense, which is loathe to give up a lead.

"That's the thing about the Bears' defense, when our backs are against the wall we come through" said defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who had 2 of the team's 4 sacks and led the linemen with 5 solo tackles. "That's basically what we did today."

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They also held Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson to 55 yards on 16 carries (3.4-yard average) a week after shutting down MVP LaDainian Tomlinson.

"We stuffed him every time," Harris said of Johnson. "I enjoyed that; he ran right at us."

The Bears limited the Chiefs to 70 yards on the ground and an average gain of just 2.9 yards per run.

"When we've got the lead, it was kind of on our defense," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We like to be in that situation where our defense has to win the game for us."

After the Bears went ahead 20-7 on Gould's 38-yard field goal, Grossman threw the first of his 2 interceptions on the next possession, when he lobbed a screen pass intended for 5-foot-7 Garrett Wolfe into the middle of the field and a scrum of players from both teams.

Napoleon Harris' interception and 4-yard return gave the Chiefs a pulse and possession at the Bears' 45.

The defense held after allowing 1 first down, and the Chiefs had to settle for a 45-yard field goal by Dave Rayner. The invigorated visitors opened the fourth quarter with their longest possession of the day, but the 12th play of the drive -- a 48-yard field-goal attempt by Rayner -- was blocked by defensive lineman Israel Idonije.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Three plays later Grossman was picked off again, when Donnie Edwards stepped in front of a pass intended for Rashied Davis and returned 18 yards to the Bears' 25.

But 3 plays after that, the defense gave the Bears the ball back when cornerback Charles Tillman reached up in the back of the end zone to tip a pass away from Samie Parker and into the waiting arms of safety Danieal Manning. Manning, starting in place of injured Mike Brown, returned it 33 yards to the Bears' 28.

The next Chiefs possession started with a sack by Brian Urlacher and ended with a sack by Tommie Harris that knocked quarterback Damon Huard out of the game.

Finally after a rare mistake that resulted in a 34-yard pass from backup quarterback Brodie Croyle to Jeff Webb, the defense came up big one more time when Tillman stripped the ball from Michael Bennett after a 10-yard reception and linebacker Lance Briggs recovered.

The offense, which finished with just 239 total yards, did show some improvement, especially in the running game, as Cedric Benson rushed for 101 yards on 24 carries (4.2-yard average) after getting just 42 yards and 2.2 yards per attempt last week.

"As long as I get 24 carries and the guys block like they did today, (I'll get) 100 yards every week," Benson said. "Guaranteed."

Grossman's first half was efficient enough to help the Bears build a 17-0 lead late in the second quarter.

He completed 4 straight passes to four different receivers for 48 yards to lead to set up Gould's 47-yard field goal with 2:25 left in the half, but the Chiefs responded with a 15-yard TD pass from Damon Huard to Dwayne Bowe to cut their deficit to 17-7 with 1:17 left.

Earlier in the second quarter, Hester's 73-yard punt return put the Bears ahead 14-0 with 9:15 left before halftime.

Hester (5 punt returns, 143 yards) fielded a long line drive and headed for the east sideline, where he hurdled two Chiefs defenders on his path to the end zone.

It was the second-year wide receiver's eighth kick-return touchdown, including one to open Super Bowl XLI. His 4 punt-return TDs are a Bears franchise record.

An eight-minute, 11-second drive that began late in the first quarter resulted in the Bears' first touchdown of the season. St. Clair entered the game presumably as an extra blocker in a goal-line situation, but he slipped into the end zone and caught a 2-yard pass from Grossman. The 15-play drive covered 79 yards and included 8 Benson carries for 41 yards.

The play fooled the Chiefs, but it was nothing unusual for the Bears.

"That wasn't new to us; we've seen it," said tight end Desmond Clark, who had 4 catches for 29 yards. "I don't think he's dropped one (in practice) since he's been here, so we had confidence in him.

"The offensive line told Rex if (St. Clair) is open and he doesn't throw him the ball, there's going to be trouble."

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