Based on the current NFC standings and tiebreakers, the Bears essentially need to win their final four games to ensure a legitimate opportunity for a postseason berth. They've won the first two games in that stretch and have now shifted the onus to Minnesota, which has a tough matchup Sunday at Arizona.
A Bears loss Thursday night -- one that seemed likely as quarterback Kyle Orton started falling to the turf on a sack with four seconds remaining in regulation -- would have given the Vikings a chance to clinch the division as early as Sunday. At worse, the Vikings would have maintained a one-game lead in the division with two weeks left in the season. Now, the Bears would be tied for the NFC North lead if the Vikings lose to the Cardinals.
I'm sure I was not the only one who considered that scenario an impossibility during the final minute of regulation Thursday night, when the Bears displayed no interest in playing for a win until it made no sense. The Saints had run off 17 consecutive points to take a 24-21 lead, and the last thing the Bears should have been hoping for was overtime.
But Chicago took only one shot into the end zone on the 13-play drive that ended regulation. Yet the Bears inexplicably tried to squeeze in one more play with seven seconds remaining, running the risk of a pre-snap penalty that would have ended the game after a 10-second runoff. Indeed, Chicago fans watched in horror as Orton was sacked, but he was able to call a timeout with two seconds left to allow kicker Robbie Gould to send it into overtime.
I realize that sequence didn't impact the outcome of the game, but I needed to get it off my chest. Ultimately, the difference came down to the overtime coin toss and a 38-yard pass-interference call drawn by receiver Devin Hester.
In the end, we're on track for extended drama in the NFC North title chase. The Bears still need help from Minnesota to win the division championship, but they did what they had to Thursday to keep the pressure on.
Final Philadelphia 24 Washington 27 Final/OT San Diego 38 San Francisco 35
Final Minnesota 35 Miami 37 Final Baltimore 13 Houston 25 Final Detroit 20 Chicago 14 Final Cleveland 13 Carolina 17 Final Atlanta 30 New Orleans 14 Final Green Bay 20 Tampa Bay 3 Final Kansas City 12 Pittsburgh 20 Final New England 17 New York 16 Final New York 37 St. Louis 27 Final Buffalo 24 Oakland 26 Final Indianapolis 7 Dallas 42 Final Seattle 35 Arizona 6