By: Bob George/
November 10, 2002

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- You saw how badly the Patriots played, and you wonder how this all happened.

After a third quarter onslaught of Chicago power and trickery helped the Bears build a 27-6 lead, the outplayed but unflappable Patriots socked it to the Bears in the final stanza. Thanks to some clutch replay calls, and some gritty quarterbacking by Tom Brady, the Patriots pulled off one of their best late rallies in team history.

David Patten's 20-yard touchdown reception with 21 seconds left, which he got by a mere toenail, plus an ensuing 2-point conversion, lifted the Patriots to a 33-30 win over the Bears before a frenzied-then-shocked crowd at the University of Illinois Memorial Stadium. The rally added to the Bears' penchant for blowing late leads, but it also turned what should have been a shameful defeat into a very important victory for the World Champs.

All game long, everything pointed to a Bears victory. They were winning the time of possession battle, the Patriots had a 2-to-1 pass to run ratio, and the Bears had an edge in turnovers. Though having a clear advantage on paper, the Patriots had major problems in dealing with a Bear defense that was missing Ted Washington and had a host of players you never heard of (and we don't mean Brian Urlacher or UNH's Jerry Azumah, folks) playing with fire and intensity.

Patten's score gave the Patriots their only lead of the game, as the Patriots played catch-up all game long. Brady was forced to throw 55 passes, of which he completed 36 of them, with three going for touchdowns. Against a bad team like the Bears, the Patriots were able to turn this many passes into a comeback win, something that usually doesn't happen when Brady throws this many passes.

The first half was as quiet as a church mouse, with each team tallying two field goals. Vinatieri would go on to kick four out of four field goals, but his first one was an historic one which got overshadowed by what transpired in the fourth quarter. The Automatic One connected on a 57-yarder early in the second quarter, his career best and a Patriot franchise record for longest field goal.

On their first possession of the second half, Brady was sacked by Alex Brown, causing a fumble. Philip Daniels recovered for the Bears at the Patriot 14, and two plays later Jim Miller (filling in for Chris Chandler, who was knocked out by Lawyer Milloy in the first half with a concussion) found Stanley Pritchett for an 11-yard touchdown pass with Otis Smith defending. It was Pritchett's first touchdown catch in three years.

The next Bear possession was one mere play. Miller handed off to Marty Booker on a reverse right, then Booker tossed a deep throw down the right sideline. Marcus Robinson easily slipped past Tebucky Jones and caught the pass for a 44-yard score. Two drives later, the Bears parlayed a remarkable interception by Urlacher into another scoring drive, this one taking three plays and Anthony Thomas covering every single yard on the ground rushing. He broke off right tackle for 34 yards and scored off left tackle from two yards out.

At this point it was 27-6, and the Patriots were completely downtrodden. To their credit, for as badly as they had played up to this point, they had the wherewithal to come back.

The Patriots began to play like champions, and Brady led the Patriots on a 75-yard touchdown drive. Brady found Troy Brown for a 19-yard pass, then used Kevin Faulk on the final 36 yards. Faulk caught a right flat pass off of a fake reverse for 14 yards, ran a draw for 7 yards, then caught a 15-yard screen pass for a touchdown that made everyone think of last week at Buffalo.

An Otis Smith pick set up a 42-yard field goal by Vinatieri, making it 27-16. The third quarter was still not done. Neither were the Patriots.

The Patriots held the Bears, then went on a 16-play, 54-yard drive which ended in a Vinatieri field goal from 25 yards to bring the Pats to within 8 at 27-19. But the Bears answered with a nine-play, 38-yard drive. Thomas touched the ball on eight of the nine plays. Paul Edinger kicked his third and final field goal, a doink shot off the right upright that seemingly buried the Patriots at 30-19.

The Patriots would get the ball two more times, and scored touchdowns on both drives. Facing third and four at the Chicago 36, Brady picked up a blitz package with both safeties coming in. Brady found a wide-open Faulk in the left flat, and he took it 37 yards down the left sideline and to the house.

Down five, the Patriots tried a two-pointer. Damien Woody snapped the ball to Faulk, and he ran towards the left corner of the end zone. Urlacher smelled out the play and stopped Faulk well short of the goal line. It was 30-25 Bears with 2:46 left, and the Patriots needed a defensive stop to have any chance.

Thomas ran for eight yards on first down to the Bear 36, but the Patriots stuffed Thomas on second and third downs. The Patriots got the ball back at the two-minute warning with no timeouts. At least Patriot Nation knew that Brady knows what to do when his team is out of timeouts late in a game.

Reprising his Super Bowl magic, Brady led the Patriots on a 56-yard drive that was helped greatly by two replay rulings that reminded everyone of the Snow Bowl.

Brady hit Patten for 18 yards, and Patten made a nifty diving catch on a slant route. After an incompletion and an eight-yard run by Faulk, it was third and two at the Chicago 30. Brady dropped back and threw a dart over the middle right into the arms of Bryan Robinson, who fumbled the ball in the process but came up with his own fumble. Bears ball, game over.

Whoops. Referee Bob McElwee, who will join Walt Coleman in the Patriot Ring Of Fame someday, was summoned from upstairs to review the play. Sure enough, after further review, Robinson never had possession of the ball and therefore the play was ruled an incompletion and not a pick. The Bear crowd howled in disgust as McElwee made his proclamation.

The Patriots kept the ball, but it was fourth down. Brady snuck for two yards to get a close first down, then the Bears curiously called a timeout before a measurement could be made and the Patriots had run a play. Brady hit Faulk for eight yards over the middle, then hit Patten with the game-winner with 21 seconds left from 20 yards out.

And this play also went to the replay booth before being official. Patten clearly beat R.W. McQuarters on the play, got his right foot clearly down in the end zone, and just barely got the tiptoes of his left foot in bounds. McElwee upheld the call, and Brady hit Brown with a 2-pointer to make it 33-30 Pats.

The Bears got the ball back and had time to run only three plays. Ty Law defended a pass to Booker, Mike Vrabel sacked Miller for a four-yard loss, and Miller tossed a short pass to Marcus Robinson. He lateraled to Booker, but he was stopped at the Bear 37 by Smith to end the game.

And Patriot Nation breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was a trap game, albeit very entertaining, and the champs dodged a huge bullet.

Four Bears completed at least one pass, and Thomas netted 99 yards rushing. But Faulk emerged as the offensive star of the game for the Patriots (if not Brady), catching 7 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

But the key word Sunday was "comeback". The Patriots showed their championship side by doing what champs do. They played poorly, and still found a way to win.

And the win will make you the fan forget how bad the Patriots played rather quickly.