bears 35, oilers 32
Temperature, wins rising
Media, not squeaker, irritates Wannstedt
He was so annoyed by the media tilting his seesaw team's 35-32 victory against the Houston Oilers toward the negative, concerns about the defense outweighing the offense's prowess in postgame queries, that he draped a towel around himself and went locker to locker giving his defensive players the scores of other games.
No need for the players to wait for ESPN's SportsCenter. Wannstedt was a little underdressed to be an anchor, but he was certainly enthusiastic in reading out the scores.
"I bet Miami expected to beat the Jets , and Detroit expected to beat Washington and Cleveland expected to beat Jacksonville ," he said after his morale-boosting visits. "We're a better team, better than we've ever been, but people expect us to be . . . and it just gets frustrating."
Here he waved his hand heavenward, where he found no pie-in-the-sky solution to a defense leaking as badly as that car in your garage.
"I told the team to tell people who ask those questions to get off it," he said.
Wannstedt, whose team shares first place in the NFC Central with Green Bay, had already shown a hint of irritation earlier at his postgame press conference: "I told the team they're 5-2, don't worry about it. I don't see anybody in the league winning 30-0."
The Bears were winning 25-0 against Houston less than 20 minutes into the game. In front of many ex-Bears from the 1985 Super Bowl team, who were back to reminisce and be honored at halftime ceremonies, the defense was finally fighting with the offense for the steering wheel, sick of riding in the back seat.
"We came in here at halftime and finally felt like we were going to dominate a team for a game," said defensive tackle Jim Flanigan of having the Oilers (2-5) by the throat. "Then it was the same old, same old. Grinding the same ax.
"At least we know what the problem is--pass rush and third down."
To be fair, the first crack in the foundation was an error by the offense. Erik Kramer tried to connect with Jeff Graham on an outside pattern into the left end zone and Oilers cornerback Darryll Lewis stepped up. He returned an interception 98 yards to cut the Bears' lead to 28-15 just before halftime.
In the third quarter, the Bears returned to their flex defense, bending and breaking on too many big pass plays. Houston quarterback Chris Chandler used passing plays of 34 yards and 42 yards to set up a 1-yard scoring run by Frank Wycheck and the Oilers were down 28-22.
Rashaan Salaam then fumbled, his only letdown in another encouraging performance for a rookie who registered his second 100-yard game this year with a 109-yard effort.
But the defense picked up Salaam, forcing Houston to settle for a field goal to pull within 28-25.
The Bears' offense then took matters into its own hands.
Kramer's 349-yard passing spectacular on 24-of-41 efficiency was just the fourth time a Bear had exceeded 300 yards at Soldier Field, three of those games by Kramer. He had lost the previous two.
This offense has people remembering back further than 1985. The Bears have now scored 30 points or more in four straight games for the first time since 1965.
Kramer sent the Oilers a message on his first play from scrimmage, going deep for Graham. It was intercepted, one of two picks he threw, but Kramer had made his point to Houston's "46" defense.
"We saw on the film that you can get behind them," he said. "They like to take away the underneath."