<
>

Bears clinch home field after beating Bucs in OT thriller

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago Bears checked another item off their
to-do list.

A division title, a first-round bye and now home-field advantage
throughout the NFC playoffs have been secured.

But this much is also certain: Chicago will have to play better
than it did in the second half Sunday or the stay in the postseason
will be short.

The Bears squandered a 24-3 third-quarter lead, recovering in
overtime behind plays from backups Rashied Davis and Adrian
Peterson to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-31.

"Obviously, you give up 31 points, it's not our best game. It
was good enough to win, though,'' Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher
said.

"We're 12-2, we have home-field advantage throughout the
playoffs. What more do you want from us at this point in time?''

Robbie Gould, who missed earlier in overtime from 37 yards,
connected on a 25-yarder with 3:37 left to give the Bears the
victory.
The win, coupled with Washington's upset of New Orleans,
clinched the home-field advantage for the NFC North champion Bears
(12-2).

"It's not like we're going to shut down our team. We have a few
things to correct going into the playoffs,'' coach Lovie Smith
said, looking ahead to remaining regular-season games against the
Lions and Packers.

Gould's field goal came after Davis made an over-the-shoulder
catch of 28 yards on a third-and-8 pass from Rex Grossman to get to
the Tampa Bay 20.

Ronde Barber, defending on the play, said it wasn't a catch and
questioned why there wasn't a booth review.

"The fact that they want the game to be over and they don't
feel like it needs to be reviewed, it's fine with me,'' Barber
said. "But that ball hit the ground, man.''

Replays in overtime are instigated from the booth, not by
coaches' challenges.

"If you are not going to make the call or you're scared to make
the call, then what's the use of having replay in the first
place?'' Barber asked.

Davis' view, predictably, was a little different: "I made an
adjustment to catch it and I caught it.''

Peterson, Chicago's third-team tailback, then had runs of 2 and
11 yards to move the ball to the 7.

Trailing by three TDs, the Bucs (3-11) stunned the Bears with
three fourth-quarter touchdowns, tying the game on Tim Rattay's
44-yard TD pass to Ike Hilliard with 3:44 left.

Rattay, who replaced the struggling Bruce Gradkowski in the
first half, also had a 64-yard TD pass to Joey Galloway that capped
a 95-yard drive in the final quarter.

"Tim took charge and made great throws, stood in there and took
a couple of shots and got us going,'' Hilliard said.

Tampa Bay ended a 13-quarter drought without a touchdown when
Mike Alstott scored on a 14-yard run with 25 seconds left in the
third quarter.

That made it 24-10, and moments later the Bucs got back in the
game when Bears rookie kick return star Devin Hester -- who had two
TDs last Monday -- fumbled the ensuing kickoff after a hit by Blue
Adams, with Wesly Mallard recovering at the Chicago 16.

Rattay hit Alex Smith with a 9-yard TD pass and suddenly the
Bucs were within a touchdown.

But Grossman, who finished 29-of-44 for 339 yards -- all career
highs -- hit four straight passes in a 77-yard drive, and Cedric
Benson's 4-yard TD run made it a two-touchdown advantage with 9:23
to go.

But the Bears couldn't put it away.

Chicago tight end Desmond Clark caught seven passes for 125
yards and a pair of touchdowns, all but one of the receptions in
the first half when the Bears built a 21-3 lead.

Bears starting nose tackle Tank Johnson, arrested Thursday for
possession of firearms without proper identification, was inactive.
Early Saturday morning, Johnson was at a downtown Chicago bar when
his friend, Willie B. Posey, was shot to death during a fight.

A team spokesman said Johnson was not at Soldier Field on
Sunday.

The Bears were missing both starting defensive tackles, because
Tommie Harris is already out after surgery on a torn hamstring.

Smith said no decision has been made on Johnson's future with
the Bears.

Hester, who has an NFL-record six returns for TDs this season,
lined up as a wide receiver late in the first quarter, but
Grossman's pass to him on the outside was too way low and
incomplete. Hester fumbled three times on kicks, losing just one.

Game Notes
The Bears were booed at the end of regulation when they
ran out the clock and decided to go to overtime instead of trying
to score with the ball deep in their end. ... Rattay finished
20-of-35 for 268 yards. ... The Bears also played without starting
left tackle John Tait (ankle) and defensive back Nathan Vasher
(hamstring), who were inactive. ... The Bucs have lost seven of
eight. ... Clark's 100-yard receiving game was the first by a Bears
tight end since Emery Moorehead had 114 against the Bucs in 1985.