NEWS

Kirk Wessler: Lucky bounces go Bears' way

Kirk Wessler

Seven-and-oh? Is there anybody out there who really believes that with a friendly bounce here, or a decision not to squib-kick there, the Chicago Bears ought to be 7-0 right now?

Truth, please.

“It could be the opposite, too,” Bears safety Mike Brown said. “A couple more plays, and we could be 0-7.”

Thank you.

That the Bears are 4-3 will be considered unlucky by some, miraculous by others. Bet the miracles, the way you should have bet the “over” on Sunday’s game with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Bears gave up 41 points — and won the game because they scored 48. That doesn’t happen. Bernard Berrian knows. He played wide receiver for the Bears for four seasons. Now he’s a primary pass target for the Vikings. Ask Berrian if he ever imagined Minnesota would hang 41 points on the Bears defense and lose.

“No,” he said. “Definitely not that.”

The Bears had not scored the 42 points required to win this game since the 2006 Super Bowl season. That Dec. 11 in St. Louis was the night Devin Hester ran back two kickoffs for touchdowns, and it was the first time the Bears had been so prolific in one game since 1993.

Sunday was the first game in which the Bears had scored 48 since beating Tampa Bay 48-14 on Dec. 7, 1986. In between, they played 357 games.

No. You score 41 points on the Bears, you win.

Unless you are these Vikings, who practiced for Halloween by treating points like candy.

The Bears’ Kyle Orton is becoming a darn fine quarterback. He threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns and came close to an interception only once. He cut up Minnesota’s defense like it was made of purple, gold and white crepe paper.

After the Vikings rolled to a 7-0 lead on their first possession, Orton drove the Bears 54 yards in five plays to tie the game in 2½ minutes. After the Vikings tied the score at 24 with 22 seconds left in the first half, Orton needed just two plays to get the Bears into field-goal position to retake the lead at halftime.

But Orton did not do enough to beat the Vikings. The Vikings finished the job themselves.

The Bears’ defense and special teams are notorious for their opportunism. But really, they can’t take credit for the two touchdowns Minnesota gave them Sunday.

The first one came when the Vikings’ Chris Kluwe lined up to punt and dropped the snap. Kluwe chased the ball to his left, scooped it up and then punted it right into Bears safety Craig Steitz. If you want to give Kluwe a pass for not being aware Steitz was already on top of him, well, OK. Kluwe acknowledged he never looked up and instinctively sought to kick the ball away.

Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

But then, as the ball skittered along the ground, Kluwe decided to play soccer and kick the thing downfield, rather than play football and dive on the ball to recover it. Thing is, that’s illegal. And we wonder why coaches hate kickers.

Not only is kicking the ball in that situation illegal, but Kluwe booted it into the arms of the Bears’ Garrett Wolfe, who trotted into the end zone for six legal and valuable points.

Then a little while later, the Vikings’ Charles Gordon lined up deep to receive a Bears punt. Brad Maynard boomed a high hanger, and Gordon decided he would not call for a fair catch. Rather, he hoped the ball would bounce into the end zone for a touchback while he blocked Bears “gunner” Zackary Bowman from downing it. But the ball was a lot closer to Gordon than he realized, and when he bounced off his block, his right arm flew out and knocked the ball into the end zone, where Bowman recovered it for six more Bears points.

“A fluke,” Gordon said. “Unbelievable.”

Maybe, but not as unbelievable as this: Minnesota special teams have given up five touchdowns in seven games this season. The two on Sunday and one against Green Bay resulted in more than enough points to beat the Vikings, who like to think they should be 5-2, rather than 3-4.

Meanwhile, in the Bears locker room, Brown smiled.

“We’re 4-3,” Brown said, noting that’s good enough for a share of first place in the NFC North. “We are who we are.”

Kirk Wessler is Journal Star executive sports editor/columnist. He can be reached at kwessler@pjstar.com, or 686-3216.