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Bears hold off late Lion rally

10/26/2003

CHICAGO (AP) -- When Joey Harrington saw the Detroit Lions
recover the onside kick, he felt about as good as he has this
entire miserable season.

But whatever chance the Lions had of ending their road woes was
quickly snuffed out Sunday when officials ruled they recovered the
ball too early. The Chicago Bears got the ball back with 53 seconds
left and ran out the clock, preserving their 24-16 victory.

Question on the Lions: Was this the Lions' last chance to win a road game this year?
Yes, this may have been their last chance. The Lions have been the most disappointing team of all the teams with new coaches. They have a good quarterback, a decent defense and a high draft pick. But they don't seem to have the fire necessary to win on the road.

Question on the Bears: Have you noticed gradual improvements with the Bears this season?
It's difficult to say they're making progress, because they're still being compared to the playoff team of two years ago. While that maybe unfair to this team, it's still the case and they definitely haven't made the strides necessary to build upon a playoff run in the near future.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

"It's as high as you can get to as low as you can get," a
dejected Harrington said. "You go from thinking you're going to
overtime to realizing you've probably lost the game."

The loss was Detroit's 14th in its last 15 games, and its 20th
straight on the road. The Lions (1-6) haven't won outside of
Michigan since Dec. 17, 2000.

"Things haven't been going their way. We knew that coming in.
It was the same for us," Bears tackle Bryan Robinson said. "You
could say, `Yeah, it's just Detroit.' But (other) teams look at us
and say, `Yeah, that's just Chicago."

Especially with the roster the Bears have these days. They are
so banged up -- six starters missed the game -- they're raiding their
depth chart for rookies.

But the youngsters did quite nicely. Charles Tillman set up one
score with an interception, Justin Gage had a TD and an assist on
another score and Brock Forsey ran for his first touchdown.

Jerry Azumah also returned the second-half kickoff for a
touchdown and had an interception.

"Not to take anything away from Detroit, but those guys stepped
up today," Robinson said. "It's a testament to the young guys
we've got, the character they've got."

Still, Detroit had a chance to win this one. Harrington threw a
3-yard scoring pass to Mikhael Ricks and found Scotty Anderson for
the conversion to pull Detroit within 24-16 with 53 seconds left.

The Lions then went for the onside kick, and Bill Schroeder
recovered. But officials chose to review it, ultimately deciding
the Lions touched the ball before it traveled the required 10
yards.

"I was sort of hoping that they would say it was
inconclusive," Lions coach Steve Mariucci said. "It looked like a
bunch of bodies over there, and I was hoping the TV cameras with
angles were a mess, so they really couldn't overrule it."

The Lions can't blame this loss on that one play, though. They
dropped four straight passes on their second possession in the
first quarter, any one of which could have gone for a touchdown or
a big gain.

They were called for nine penalties, costing them 64 yards. And
Harrington moved them to the Chicago 3 with two minutes to play,
only to fail to get a first down.

"You can fault the penalties, you can fault the interception,
you can fault the drops. You can fault whatever you want, but you
can't fault the effort," Harrington said. "That's the frustrating
thing. We played hard, we left everything there and we came up
short."

Harrington, who didn't find out until Wednesday he was starting,
was 23-of-40 for 180 yards. But he was intercepted twice.

The first came in the second quarter, when Tillman stepped in
front of Az-Zahir Hakim for a 32-yard pick. Two plays and a penalty
later, Chris Chandler found Gage for the 21-yard pass that gave the
Bears a 7-0 lead.

It was the first time this season the Bears led by more than a
field goal.

Chicago got the ball back late in the half, and a penalty on a
punt return backed it up to the 10. But instead of running out the
clock, the Bears took a gamble.

After Boss Bailey's sack put Chicago at its 44, Gage wrestled a
ball away from Otis Smith for a 37-yard reception. Paul Edinger
kicked a 37-yard field goal to give Chicago a 10-0 lead at the
half.

Azumah padded the lead on the opening kick of the second half,
returning the ball 89 yards. When Forsey scored on an 8-yard run to
give Chicago a 24-0 lead, it looked as if the rout was on.

But Reggie Swinton took the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a
touchdown as the Bears let the Lions back into the game, setting up
the last-minute dramatics.

"Every game's a must-win from this point on," Brian Urlacher
said. "If we want to get to where we want to be, we've got to win
all the rest of our games. We made some mistakes and we fooled
around, but we covered them up this time."

Game notes
After making his first 14 field goals this year, Edinger
had a 33-yard attempt blocked in the fourth quarter. ... Azumah's
kick return for a score was Chicago's first since Glyn Milburn had
a 94-yarder against Green Bay on Dec. 13, 1998. ... Swinton's kick
return for a score was Detroit's first since Terry Fair's
105-yarder on Sept. 28, 1998.

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