CHICAGO, OCT. 7 -- The Bears' starting quarterback was knocked out of the game in the second quarter. Their starting running back suffered a concussion. Same thing for their starting safety. Their trainer ran out of ice packs early today, but Chicago's 27-13 victory over the Green Bay Packers made it worth the pain.
Neal Anderson, despite bruised ribs, a heavily wrapped knee and spells of dizziness, rushed 21 times for 141 yards. He scored Chicago's first touchdown, putting the Bears ahead for good, 7-3, and set up the clincher with a 52-yard dash late in the fourth.
While Anderson found his way in the blowing rain of gloomy Soldier Field, Packers quarterback Don Majkowski found mostly the arms, hands and hot breath of defenders Richard Dent and Trace Armstrong. The Bears recorded only one sack, but used 23 hurries and 13 knockdowns to make the afternoon miserable for Majkowski. There was no Majik in the Green Bay offense this day, Majkowski completed only 12 of 39 passes, and 76 of his 211 yards came on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe.
Through one particularly harried stretch of the fourth quarter, Majkowski threw 12 consecutive incompletions. A 30 mph wind off Lake Michigan didn't help, but he was throwing into a frantic Bears defense.
"It was a typical Bears-Packers game," Bears Coach Mike Ditka said. "Both teams had their moments."
Only the Bears and Packers manage to have have their moments on the same play, and this one turned the game in favor of the Bears for good.
With Chicago (4-1) holding a 20-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter, Green Bay's Tiger Greene blocked Maury Buford's punt near midfield. But Bears linebacker Mickey Pruitt picked up the loose ball behind the line of scrimmage, and scooted eight yards for the first down. "Stunning," Greene said. "Blocked punt turns into a live ball behind the line of scrimmage. Who can believe it?"
The Bears didn't score right away, but the Packers (2-3) never got decent field position, which would have helped a lot going against the wind.
Besides having a punt blocked, the Bears watched The Fridge, William Perry, get stuffed on a goal-line carry and Anderson fumble without being touched at the end of a 48-yard run. He was trying to find a comfortable spot to hold the ball when it hit the protective rib pad and bounced to the Packers for a turnover.
Yes, both teams had their moments.
But the Bears' defense, particularly the line and secondary, had more of them. The Packers did take a 3-0 lead on Chris Jacke's 38-yard field goal four minutes into the game. But Dent got to Majkowski on the next series and the tone was set.
A three-yard run by Anderson put the Bears on top, 7-3. Set up by a 29-yard pass from Mike Tomczak to Anderson, Kevin Butler's 50-yard field goal just before halftime made it 10-6. A naked bootleg by Tomczak, subbing for Jim Harbaugh, whose ribs had been badly bruised, made it 17-6 late in the third.
But Majkowski, on one of his few completions of the fourth quarter, threw a quick out to Sharpe, who broke away from safety Mark Carrier -- knocked out on the play -- and ran 76 yards for the touchdown that closed the Packers to 17-13.
Only in a Packers-Bears game could all the touchdowns (except the last one, when Tomczak passed two yards to Cap Boso) be scored against the wind. Butler, however, kicked a 51-yarder with it for 20-13, and that's where Dent and Armstrong took over. "If anything," Packers offensive tackle Tony Mandarich said, "bad weather is an advantage to the offensive line. We have no excuses."
Somehow, Majkowski kept avoiding being sacked. Several times, he seemed to evaporate just as Dent or Armstrong began to wrap their arms around him. "He's amazing," Ditka said. "It looked like he was invisible out there. Maybe he is magic."
Majkowski might have been able to pull something out of his hat if he'd gotten even the slightest help from the running game. But the Packers gained only 32 yards on 16 rushes. Brent Fullwood carried twice for a total of minus-three, and Majkowski's 15 yards on six scrambles led the team.
"I don't know how much better you can play defensively," Ditka said.
Dent, on one of his many trips near the Packers' huddle, said he overheard Majkowski pleading to his offensive line: " 'Will you guys please keep those blanking Bears off me,' " Dent quoted the quarterback.
In all, it was the kind of NFC Central game Midwesterners appreciate, one in which the number of concussions almost match the number of completions. The Bears got just enough from Tomczak off the bench (nine of 20, 92 yards and one touchdown) to take a one-game lead over Tampa Bay, a two-game lead over the Packers, and a three-game lead over the Vikings. Only five games into the season, the Bears have swept the Packers.
"Our goal at the beginning of the year," Ditka said, "was to make amends for last year. We've already erased two blots from last year."