My grandpa always spit the knowledge,"football games are won and lost in the fourth quarter." The Chicago Bears proved that theory once again on Sunday night by erasing a 17-0 San Francisco 49ers lead and winning on the road 28-20.
The game was also a coming out party for rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller, who made two late interceptions for a depleted Chicago secondary. Fuller, the Bear’s first-round pick in this year’s NFL draft came in after Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman went down with a right triceps injury .
The B-More native and former Virginia Tech standout was selected 14th overall by a franchise built on defense. Fuller has a dozen tackles in two games and looks like the real deal Holyfield.
On his first interception, Fuller ripped the football away from wide receiver Michael Crabtree (Insert Richard Sherman ridicule) and returned it 20 yards to set up the game-winning touchdown pass.
On the second rip, Fuller intercepted a pass intended for tight end Derek Carrier to help put the game away.
Fuller’s injection of defensive wizardry came at the perfect time as five key Chi-Town defenders are hurt: cornerbacks Sherrick McManis (quadriceps) and Tillman, defensive end Trevor Scott (foot), safety Chris Conte (shoulder) and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion).
Fuller and an increased Bears pass rush made up for a pathetic Week 1 effort where the reconstructed defense came up short, Jay Cutler made some shady decisions with the rock and the Bears dropped the season opener to the Buffalo Bills 23-20 in O.T.
Said Fuller, who went against some very capable San Fran receivers and immediately distinguished himself as a ball-hawking corner:
“We knew we had a good defense. This week we went out and corrected those things we did wrong last week, and came up with a big win today. We all still had confidence; we knew we were going to pull it out,”
Is calling him a shutdown corner after two games hyperbole?
Ask Colin Kaepernick, who came out smoking and then fell prey to Fuller’s blanket coverage. Jim Harbaugh and the crew basically slept on the rookie and Kap’s three picks in total, sunk any hope San Fran had of winning the inaugural game in their mint, and newly constructed $1.2 billion Levi’s Stadium.
“This is very disappointing, our first game in the new stadium,” linebacker Patrick Willis said. “We put the loss on us as a football team. … We have to cut down on the penalties.”
Fuller and Chicago’s revived defense frustrated Kap' into an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for “inappropriate language” following the rookies first pick, which set up Cutler’s 3-yard TD pass to Martellus Bennett for a 21-20 lead. Cutler threw for two scores in a 27-second span early in the final quarter. The banged up, but still prolific wide receiver combo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey came to ball. Marshall, who was nursing an ankle injury suffered in last Sunday’s game, was healthy enough to score three huge TDs.
Chi-Town trailed 17-7 at halftime. After getting hit in the chest, Cutler went H.A.M. and started lacing his huge receiver targets and moving on that vaunted 49ers defense.
The gun-slinging Cutler was highly efficient finishing 23 of 34 for 176 yards and four TDs, avoiding a repeat of the two costly picks that sank his team against Buffalo.
“Yes that (Chicago) defense did get the takeaways (4), but to me it was Cutler,” said Super Bowl-winning HC and NFL analyst Tony Dungy. “His poise… his receivers are injured and at 80 percent. The defense is banged up and he willed this team to victory. He hung in there and made big plays. Jay Cutler was responsible for that win (on the road tonight).”
Despite his horrendous second-half performance, Kaepernick had a chance to force overtime, but his fourth down pass to Michael Crabtree bounced off the receiver’s fingertips and then off his hands as he lay on his back unable to get his team up before the referee’s count hit 10 ( Insert Richard Sherman joke).
The Bears showed guts, grit, and determination and flossed a number of big-game, clutch-performing weapons on offense and defense.
Prior to Sunday night’s game, the Bears had a record of 33-140-1 record in road games after trailing by 16. The last time they were able to mount such a comeback was in October 2006, when then-Arizona HC Dennis Green dropped his own infamous hip-hop quotable after a game in which the Cardinals squandered a 20-point lead over the Chicago Bears in less than twenty minutes.
Today, Harbaugh is feeling Green's sentiments.