Champaign, Ill. – In one of the more incredible comebacks of the Bill Belichick era, the Patriots managed to score 27 second half points to beat the Bears 33-30. It took two reviewed plays and no time outs on the Patriots last possession to win the game.
For most of three quarters, the Bears defense kept the Patriots offense off balance, but when things counted most, Brady and his bunch managed to pull out victory in the most amazing fashion.
There was no indication after both offenses managed only 12 points in the first half that the game would wind up so frantic.
The Patriots biggest play of the first quarter was negated by a penalty. Brady pump faked left and then gave Kevin Faulk an inside handoff that the running back took down the right sideline for a 34-yard pick-up. But Deion Branch threw an illegal crackback block and the play was called back. New England punted two plays later.
Taking over on its own 33, Chicago moved the ball downfield, helped in large part by a Chris Chandler third and 5 keep for 14 yards. The Bears made it to the New England 21 but on third and 6, Ty Law made a nice play on a Chandler pass to the end zone intended for Marty Booker and Chicago settled for a 39-yard field goal by Paul Edinger for the early 3-0 lead just into the second quarter.
The Patriots answered right back but it took a little trickery and a franchise-long 57-yard Vinatieri field goal to do it.
On fourth and 1 from their own 39, the Patriots lined up to punt. Ken Walter instead ran to the line of scrimmage, Damon Huard, on the field with the punt team, took the snap and kept the ball up the middle. The ploy worked for 4 yards and the first down.
After getting down to the Chicago 35, Brady was sacked on third down and Vinatieri was brought in for the record field goal.
The battle of field goals continued with Edinger's 40-yarder on the Bears next possession. Chicago came up with a little sleight of hand of its own when Leon Johnson took a pitch from Jim Miller, in for the injured Chandler who sprained his neck, and threw downfield to Marty Booker for 27 yards. The New England defense continued its recent string of holding teams in its territory when Lawyer Milloy snuffed a third and 2 attempt by Anthony Thomas forcing the field goal.
The first half ended with the Patriots tying the game at 6. With 1:28 left, the Patriots took the Bears kickoff and started on their 32. Faulk ran for 9 yards and then took a screen pass from Brady for 23 yards. Completions to Branch, Brown and Patten had New England on the Bears 12 where Vinatieri nailed a 31-yarder to knot the score.
The second half started out with the Patriots holding the Bears to a three and out series but on the Patriots subsequent drive, disaster struck in the form of the dreaded turnover. On second down from his 23, Brady dropped back only to have the pocket collapse on him and the ball squirt loose. The recovery was by the Bears and two plays later, Miller found Stanley Pritchard in the end zone for the game's first touchdown. The first turnover for the Patriots since the Green Bay game resulted in a 13-6 Chicago lead.
It got exponentially worse after New England punted from its own 15-yard line on its next possession and the Bears took over with good field position from the Patriots 44. All it took from there was Miller handing off to Booker who then looked downfield to Marcus Robinson for the long touchdown. The Patriots were burned by the trick play once again. More importantly, they were down 20-6 with around 10 minutes left in the third quarter.
Disaster seemed to develop into the Apocalypse when Brian Urlacher, having one of his typical awesome games, intercepted Brady. Brady had just fumbled the snap on the first play of the series for a loss of 3. He then tried to squeeze in a pass over the middle to Troy Brown that Urlacher picked off.
Anthony Thomas took the Bears second play of the ensuing possession 34 yards down to the two and then broke into the end zone for the score on the next.
Down 27-6, the Patriots were forced to play major catch-up and it only took them eight plays and 3:35 to score their first touchdown of the game. The drive started on the New England 25 with the familiar dinking and dunking that worked so well against the Bills last week. Inside the Bears 40, it was the Kevin Faulk show as he caught a pass for 14 yards, ran for 6 and then took a screen for 16 yards and the score.
When Otis Smith intercepted Miller and returned it to the Chicago 25, a glimmer of hope began to shine on the 4-4 Patriots. But three plays later, the Patriots were only able to manage 2 yards and Vinatieri knocked home his third field goal of the game to narrow Chicago's lead to 11 at 27-16.
The Patriots defense answered the bell on their next chance by forcing the Bears to punt after three plays. New England managed to put together a 16-play scoring drive but only for yet another three points via the foot of Vinatieri. On third down at the Bears 7-yard line, Brady looked for David Givens, but Todd McMillon of the Bears made a good play in coverage.
The kickoff was returned 44 yards by Ahmad Merritt up to the New England 48, exactly what the Patriots didn't need at that point in their comeback attempt. The Bears pounded the ball in the hands of Thomas with the exception of one 13-yard pass to Booker. The Patriots defense kept the Bears out of the end zone but not the scoreboard as three more points were added to the lead with a 32-yard field goal. With 5:22 left in the game, the Patriots were down 30-19.
It got real interesting when Brady threw over the Bears defense from Chicago's 36-yard line and hit Faulk who sprinted down the left sideline for the score. Down by five points, the Patriots went for the 2-point conversion but Urlacher caught up with Faulk going around the left end and the score was 30-25 with under three minutes left. The Patriots scoring drive began at their 37 and was all pass – Faulk, Brown and Givens.
And it wasn't over. The defense held the Bears once again giving the offense a chance for the win, albeit with no time outs and under two minutes. But when Brady threw an interception to Bryan Robinson it looked like it was over.
Hold on, the play was reviewed since Robinson fumbled and recovered and the question was, did he have possession at all.
He didn't. The Patriots had 54 seconds in which to win the game but were facing a fourth and 3 from the Bears 30. Brady kept, made the first down and then spiked the ball.
Forty seconds, first down from the 27. Incomplete, intended for Patten.
Second down, 37 seconds left. Brady drops back, looks, looks, looks and appears to be dragged down from behind but amazingly manages to get rid of the ball for a 7-yard pick-up.
Twenty-seven seconds, third and 3 from the 20. Brady drops back again, avoids the rush, looks to the end zone and, somehow, finds David Patten just as he steps over the end line.
Of course, it wasn't that easy. Review time. Did he have his feet in? Yes. All that was left was holding the Bears after the kickoff with around 20 seconds left.
New England escaped the campus of the University of Illinois with an incredible 33-30 win.
The Raiders are up next – a team all too familiar with the Patriots last minute heroics.