Sunday, September 27, 2009
Bears' Hillenmeyer out with rib injury
SEATTLE -- The dominoes behind star linebacker Brian Urlacher kept falling. Yet fill-in Nick Roach and the Bears' defense stood tall when they had to.
Chicago finished Sunday's 25-19 victory over the Seattle Seahawks down to its third middle linebacker. Hunter Hillenmeyer got hurt two weeks after the Bears lost Urlacher, their six-time Pro Bowl selection and defensive leader, to a season-ending wrist injury.
Hillenmeyer, a seventh-year veteran, left in the third quarter with what Bears coach Lovie Smith said was a rib injury. That left Roach, a third-year veteran from Northwestern who replaced injured outside linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa earlier this month, to move inside to the middle spot in Chicago's defense.
Roach earned rave reviews from teammates and coaches after he chased Seattle's Seneca Wallace across the end zone and forced a wild, off-balance throw that Lance Briggs intercepted in the third quarter to set up a field goal.
Roach also raced into the flat to hound running back Julius Jones and force Wallace to throw too high over him on Seattle's final play, a failed fourth-and-2 from the Bears 29 with 30 seconds left.
"It's tough when you go to your third linebacker, but Nate Roach stepped in and did a super job of getting the calls, getting us in the right spot," Smith said.
Roach just shrugged when asked about the void he stepped into with Sunday's game at stake, saying it wasn't much different than replacing Tinoisamoa earlier.
"I mean, I feel comfortable," he said. "I think the guys, they trust me. They trust anybody who can show that they are calm under that kind of pressure."
He lamented not being able to drag down the elusive Wallace for a safety, then realized the interception and subsequent field goal from Robbie Gould was better.
"Oh, man, I wish I would have gotten him down -- but it turned out being better," Roach said. "We turned out getting three points instead of two."
Chicago running back Matt Forte was bent back awkwardly at the end of an 11-yard run on the Bears' winning drive. He spent the last few plays running in place on the sideline, trying to get loose, as Adrian Peterson replaced him. Forte, who had 66 yards on 21 carries as he continues to grind through a slow opening month, limped some in the locker room following an extended, postgame treatment session.
Forte, who also had a team-high six receptions, had a wrap on his left leg.
Smith initially said the Bears had "a couple of injuries" but then only mentioned Hillenmeyer's.