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Morning Box Score: It’s F'n Goulden

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Dec 12, 2008 3:35PM

2008_12_bears_week15.jpgOn the game's very first play, the Bears jumped out to a 7-0 lead on an 83-yard kickoff return by Danieal Manning. On the final play of the game, Robbie Gould kicked the game-winning field goal in overtime to seal the deal on a 27-24 victory over the visiting New Orleans Saints. In between, the Bears almost gave away the game.

In this battle between two 7-6 teams looking to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, many expected a close game. For a while, though, it looked like the Bears would have their way with the Saints. Manning seems to have supplanted Devin Hester permanently on kick return duties -- can he take punts, too? -- after returning the opening kickoff 83 yards for a TD, and returning another kick 52 yards that, combined with a 39 yard pass interference call on a toss intended for Hester, set up the Bears' second TD score. The Bears built the lead to 21-7 by driving 42 yards in the closing minutes of the half after New Orleans punted from deep in their territory. The Bears offense needed all the help it could get on Thursday, as the team found little success in moving the ball until late in the game. The good field position and critical penalties helped the team immensely.

While the Bears defense helped keep the team in the game, holding MVP candidate Drew Brees well below his averages, they couldn't stop the Saints offense entirely. Brees completed 24 of 43 passes for 232 yards, throwing two TDs and two INTs. But it was enough to see the team claw back from the 21-7 halftime deficit and take a lead late in the game. With a 21-17 lead about about five minutes to go, the Bears ran a fake punt play which resulted in an incomplete pass and turned the ball over to the Saints near midfield. The Saints marched down the field and took their first lead of the night.

Fortunately, the Bears finally were able to sustain a drive and get into field goal range to tie on a Robbie Gould field goal as the game clock expired, sending it to OT. The Bears won the coin flip, got more help from another pass interference call, and positioned Gould for the game winning boot -- Bears win 27-24. With the win, the Bears move to 8-6 and, for now, remain alive in the NFC North. The Vikings visit the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday, which is a game they could lose. The teams would be tied in the standings, although Minnesota holds the tie breaker. As for the Saints, their playoff hopes are all but over this year.

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert