Rookie tight end Alonzo Mayes came of age as he put the Chicago Bears in position to win, and then veteran Jeff Jaeger finished it off.
Jaeger kicked two fourth-quarter field goals, including the winning 29-yarder with 11 seconds left, as the Bears rallied for a 13-12 victory Sunday over the Dallas Cowboys.
The 12-year veteran hasn't gotten many shots this year, and he admitted to being nervous as he walked on the field.
"That's where the experience factor comes in," said Jaeger, who had just one field goal in the previous three games. "If you start doubting yourself, you can let that creep into your mind. ... You learn how to slow down a little bit."
Chicago scored in the third quarter for the first time since Nov. 16, 1997, as the Bears (2-5) beat the Cowboys (4-3) for the second consecutive time at Soldier Field. Bears coach Dave Wannstedt, the Cowboys' former defensive coordinator, is 2-1 against his former team.
Trailing 12-10 with 5:10 left, the Bears got the ball back at their own 20, and Erik Kramer immediately went to Mayes. The rookie, who fumbled two of his previous seven receptions this season, caught a 22-yard pass on the first play and another for 19 yards as Chicago moved to the Dallas 29.
"I am understanding what I am doing now," Mayes said. "It feels good they allowed me to stay in and keep progressing the way I have been last few weeks."
| Michael Irvin has a pass stripped away in the end zone by Walt Harris. (AP) |
After a series of short runs by Edgar Bennett got the Bears to the 11, Jaeger kicked the winning field goal. Dallas got the ball back and Jason Garrett tried to find Deion Sanders, but Andre Collins intercepted the pass to end the game.
"Right now, we're a team without a personality, but it's going to flourish," Sanders said. "We need to establish ourselves and play Dallas Cowboys football. Right now, we don't know what that is."
Kramer was 18-of-30 for 233 yards and one touchdown. He also was sacked three times and intercepted once. Garrett, who had the third-best quarterback rating in the NFC while filling in for the injured Troy Aikman, was 14-of-26 for 136 yards and one touchdown in what likely was his last start.
"We won three and we lost two," Garrett said of his starting role. "Obviously we want the two losses back, but you can't have that."
Trailing 12-7 at the start of the fourth quarter, Chicago got some big plays from Curtis Conway, who was sitting on the bench with an ice bag on his neck just a few minutes earlier. Conway, who suffered a slight concussion when he fell backwards over Kenny Wheaton and landed on his neck just before halftime, caught passes of 16 and 13 yards as Chicago marched to the 5.
But the Bears were stopped there, and settled for Jaeger's 22-yard field goal with 8:24 left.
"I really thought we were going to punch it in and turn the game around dramatically," Kramer said. "It really hurt not getting that done."
With Dallas leading 6-0 after two first-half field goals from Richie Cunningham, the Bears finally broke their third-quarter drought on Kramer's 13-yard TD pass to Chris Penn. Chicago had been outscored 95-0 in the last 11 games, including 61-0 this season.
Bobby Engram caught passes of 31 and 10 yards to set up the score. Penn was sandwiched between defensive backs Omar Stoutmire and Kevin Smith in the corner of the end zone, but he leaped and hauled in the pass to make it 7-6.
"We scored in the third quarter? Unbelievable," Kramer said, smiling. "That gave us a big lift. But as quick as we got up, we went right down."
Just two minutes later, Kramer's midfield throw to Engram was tipped by Wheaton -- straight into Dexter Coakley's hands at the Chicago 47. Coakley rumbled all the way into the end zone, but the score was waved off.
Officials said Kavika Pittman low-blocked James Williams after the interception. But replays seemed to show Pittman just fell, and Williams went tumbling after him.
But the Cowboys scored anyway as Garrett hit David LaFleur on a bootleg for a 1-yard score. Garrett tried to find Michael Irvin on the 2-point conversion, but it was incomplete and Dallas had a 12-7 lead wih six seconds left in the third quarter.
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