With a day to reflect on their thrilling opening day victory, Bears players and coaches sounded a lot like they did after last season's unlikely string of stunners. It's not luck, they insist. Good teams put themselves in positions to win.
The Bears certainly did that in Sunday's 27-23 win
over Minnesota. After being outplayed for a half, a
few tweaks were made, but essentially the Bears stuck
to what they do best pound the ball and eventually wore down the Vikings.
Coach Dick Jauron, while happy about starting the
season on a positive note, hardly was surprised his
guys were able to rally under the sweltering
conditions in Champaign. After going 13-3 last season,
this a confident group.
"They have a lot of belief in themselves," Jauron
said. "They have a lot of faith in each other. They
don't want to let their teammates down. I think that's
a big part of it."
Faith, confidence, and aligned stars aside, what it really comes down to is talent.
"We have some really good athletes on the football
field," Jauron said. "There's no denying that. The
fact of the matter is, the better your athletes, the
better your team. Guys that have that kind of talent
usually have a lot of confidence in their talent."
It's not to say Jauron doesn't have confidence in his
backups, but when three starters are carted off the
field in the first half, two on the same cart, it's not a pretty sight.
The severity of the two serious injuries to corner
R.W. McQuarters, who hurt his left knee, and defensive
end Phillip Daniels, who twisted his right ankle,
won't be known until test results come back. The third
player, safety Mike Brown, received two IVs and
returned to the game to intercept a Daunte Culpepper
pass to set up the winning touchdown.
"That's not a good feeling when you see that cart
going into the lockerroom with those three guys on it
and the team's on the field playing football," Jauron
said. "But the guys that stepped in, they did what
they had to do."
With their most experienced corner in McQuarters out,
the Bears turned to the tandem of Reggie Austin and
Todd McMillon, a diminutive pair of cornerbacks and
good friends, who together spent the off-season
bulking up in Atlanta under the guidance of strength
guru Chip Smith. It wouldn't surprise anyone if they
were hanging from chin-up bars trying to get taller,
"(The coaches) were telling me that I needed to get
stronger and try and get a little bit bigger," said
the 5-foot-9-inch, 185-pound Austin. "I can't do
anything about my height, so the only thing I can do
is try and get a little bit bigger and stronger."
Austin, who played one down last year after spending
all of 2000, his rookie season, on injured reserve,
used all of his height and considerable speed to make
a diving interception on the Bears' goal line.
"Reggie showed up yesterday on a guy like Randy Moss,"
defensive end Bryan Robinson said. "You're not going
to get better than that in this league.
"For a guy who doesn't usually play as much as he did,
he got that call, he came in, he knocked a home run."
Jauron admitted that had Austin not committed himself
to getting stronger during the off-season, the former
fourth-round pick wouldn't have made the team this
Austin, the self-proclaimed fastest man on the team,
is used to being second-guessed.
"That's happened all my life," Austin said. "People
saying I'm too small, too small to go to college, they
said I was too small to start in college, they said I
was too small to go to the NFL and now they say I'm
too small to start in this league."
All backups are told they're just a knee or an ankle
injury away from playing. Depending on McQuarters'
status, Austin could be starting in the NFL next week
Depth of the defensive secondary was a question that
was answered quickly with McQuarters and Brown out.
Another question was second-year man Bernard Robertson
at left tackle.
Robertson was called for holding on one play, but
performed admirably against a well-prepared Minnesota
"Everybody's just giving a big exhale that I didn't go
out there and screw up," Robertson said. "It's just
like taking a bet and winning, everyone's just
"I knew I could go out there and play ball and so did
the staff and team, but I had to go out there and
prove to everybody else that's not in this
While clearly talking about the media, Robertson also
was alluding to the Vikings.
"I don't know if they were trying to take advantage
of just me," Robertson said. "They were trying to take
advantage of the entire offensive line. They brought a
lot of stuff, you know, twists, blitzes. And they took
advantage of the heat knowing that we like to double-team guys and rush the ball a lot. They did whatever
they could to keep from being still and allowing us to
get those blocks.
"The second we started figuring out what they were
doing, we put it together, broke it down and did what
we do best: pound on guys."
Jauron praised Robertson's pass protection, but hinted
he still needs some work at run blocking. While
allowing just one sack, Anthony Thomas rushed for minus-2
yards in the first half and the problems can be
attributed to lack of holes in the line.
On the other side of tbe ball, the trio of Moe
Williams, Michael Bennett and Doug Chapman combined
for 136 yards rushing on the Bears' defense, known for
stopping the run.
"I would attribute their running the ball to the fact
that they blocked us," Jauron said. "They did a nice
job. They executed and we didn't at times. The credit
goes to them."
The loss of Daniels, an end who plays the run well,