Rozner: Chicago Bears find a way to win crazy game
When you pay to see an NFL game these days, you're going to get your money's worth.
If you like a good circus, that is.
The Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers provided all three rings Sunday at Soldier Field, an event replete with political protests, penalties aplenty and pungently poor play.
Add in one of the worst moments in Bears history and a furious finish, and the 23-17 victory over Pittsburgh was at least memorable when it wasn't downright ridiculous.
It had clowns, jugglers and zebras, not mention a menagerie of catches that were and catches that weren't, interceptions that were and interceptions that weren't, touchdowns that were and touchdowns that weren't.
And, of course, overtime.
But the show of shows was Marcus Cooper picking up a blocked field-goal attempt at the end of the first half and running it back for a touchdown.
Except for the touchdown part.
Why he stopped short of the goal line is beyond explanation, and it should have cost the Bears the football game.
The fact that it didn't will only partially remove that special memory for Bears fans, but the long drive to win in overtime spared Cooper from eternal embarrassment.
And for that he owes a debt to Jordan Howard, the offensive line and the rest of the Bears' defense, which stood tall over and over again against Big Ben Roethlisberger.
The Bears had 15 chances to lose this game and the fact that they didn't says much about the character of this group, which stayed together before the game and remained together during a wild fourth quarter and overtime.
"It's a testament to the guys in this locker room, the way the guys run the football, the way the defense responds with their backs against the wall," said guard Kyle Long, who returned to the lineup for the first time since November. "It's a team effort. We can't do anything if we're not all together, and today we were all together."
The benefit of victory is it buys time for Mike Glennon, thereby buying time for Mitch Trubisky.
It buys time for John Fox, thereby buying time for Ryan Pace.
It buys time for Long -- as important as any player on the team -- thereby buying time for a banged-up offensive line.
"It feels like you've been gone a long time until you get out there, and then it feels like football," Long said. "It's still really hard."
Long's return from serious shoulder and ankle injuries played no small part in the Bears winning their first game of the season Sunday.
The ankle will be tested all season, and the shoulder will not fully heal until his labrum is repaired, making Long's effort rather amazing.
"My shoulder? It's still attached," Long said with a chuckle. "Shoulder feels pretty good. The main thing was getting my cardio back.
"I was gassed. Limited reps the last few months showed up. It was hot, but they were hot, too."
The Steelers had three chances to win the game in the fourth quarter, but the Bears' defense would not break.
And then in overtime, the Bears took the kickoff and went 74 yards in four plays, all on the ground, as Howard kept returning from injury to run it 23 times for 138 yards, while Tarik Cohen carried 12 times for 78.
"They put the game in our hands in overtime and we got it done," said tackle Bobby Massie, who saved the game with a recovered Cohen fumble in Bears territory with two minutes left in regulation. "We love to run the football and we're excited when we get the chance."
So it was all smiles and giggles after the Bears beat a team picked by many to reach the Super Bowl this season.
It wasn't pretty and it didn't even have a good personality, but this is today's NFL -- where any victory is a big deal.
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