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Bears Boot Lions' Playoff Hopes

Heads were buried in hands, blank stares were everywhere and handshakes and hugs were exchanged in silence.

The Detroit Lions knew they had blown it.

Chicago knocked the Lions out of the NFL playoff race when rookie Paul Edinger kicked a 54-yard field goal with two seconds left Sunday, giving the Bears a 23-20 upset over the Lions.

"It doesn't make any sense," Detroit's Johnnie Morton said. "We were favored by 10 points over a team that already had their stuff packed because they had nothing to play for."

With Detroit's loss, the defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams made the playoffs by beating the New Orleans Saints 26-21.

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Game Summary

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  • All Detroit (9-7) had to do was beat the Bears (5-11) to qualify, but it couldn't take advantage of numerous breaks.

    "This just ruins the holidays," Detroit coach Gary Moeller said. "Fans are going to be down on us, and why shouldn't they be? We had to win this game."

    Detroit led 10-0 midway through the first quarter and 17-13 early in the final quarter, but Chicago kept fighting back even though it had nothing but pride to play for.

    "It was a great way to end a long year, a very long year," Chicago coach Dick Jauron said. "This team has a lot of character, and I've said their character will show up in the future."

    The Lions had numerous opportunities to beat Chicago and advance to the playoffs for the third time in four years, but they couldn't take advantage of the breaks.

    "That's what separates the teams that make the playoffs from the ones that don't," Detroit's Stephen Boyd said.

    Detroit's best chance came whn Allen Aldridge forced Bears running back James Allen to fumble at the Chicago 10 with 2:22 left.

    But the Bears forced the Lions to settle for Jason Hanson's 26-yard field goal, which tied the game at 20 with 1:56 left.

    Chicago went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, but the Bears got it back when R.W. McQuarters hit backup quarterback Stoney Case, causing a fumble that was recovered by Rosevelt Colvin.

    Cade McNown, subbing for the injured Shane Matthews, moved 19 yards in five plays and 37 seconds. On a fourth-and-1 on the play before the kick, McNown threw a 10-yard pass to Allen.

    That play put Edinger in place for the game-winning kick.

    The rookie from Michigan State also beat Florida in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1 as time expired.

    "I don't know if it's a coincidence," Edinger said. "I just hope I can end every year like this."

    McQuarters returned an interception 61 yards for a touchdown to give the Bears a 20-17 lead with 6:31 left.

    "I was reading his eyes," McQuarters said. "I read the quarterback and got a good jump on the ball."

    McQuarters intercepted another pass on the next possession, but the Bears were called for holding, negating the play.

    Both starting quarterbacks were knocked out of the game late in the first half.

    Detroit's Charlie Batch aggravated a rib injury and was replaced by Case.

    Batch admitted that his ribs have been broken since the win over New England on Thanksgiving. He missed the first game of the season with an injured right knee, which never seemed to heal.

    "I haven't been completely healthy once this season," Batch said. "I just always felt we had a better chance of winning with me on the field."

    Matthews broke his right thumb, giving McNown, benched earlier this week, a chance to play.

    Neither backup passed the ball effectively. McNown was 5-of-11 for 60 yards, and Case was 12-of-21 for 89 yards with the interception and fumble.

    McNown threw a 27-yard pass to Marty Booker to give Chicago a 13-10 lead with 1:47 left in the third quarter. Case gave Detroit a 17-13 lead on a 13-yard draw.

    "I'm disappointed in myself," Case said. " didn't get the job done and we lost. I take a lot of responsibility for that."

    Notes

  • Edinger's 50- and 54-yard field goals were the two longest of his first season. Before Sunday, his longest kick was from 49 yards.
  • John Jett had one of the best punting games of his career. He punted six times, and all six resulted in the Bears getting the ball inside their own 15.

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