Now maybe Mike Ditka will be just another coach, instead of the legend whose shadow the Chicago Bears could never quite escape.
Shane Matthews threw two touchdown passes to Curtis Conway in the last 1:48 Sunday as the Bears overcame what had been their worst offensive display of the year to beat Ditka and the New Orleans Saints 14-10.
It's the first time the Bears (2-2) have beaten Ditka, their coach for 11 years and one Super Bowl title.
Beating Ditka and the Saints (1-2) is a good way to start. After Matthews found Conway for a 6-yard TD pass with seven seconds left, Bears fans, who were booing their team a quarter earlier, were on their feet. Offensive tackle Blake Brockermeyer went to the corner of the end zone and screamed at the fans in celebration as Ditka threw his clipboard in disgust.
"It doesn't feel good when you end up playing a game like that, but to the victor go the spoils and I guess it's just part of life," Ditka said. "We didn't do a very good job when we had a chance."
As the game ended, the Bears ran onto the field, many pumping their helmets in the air.
"I felt sorry for the fans who left," Brockermeyer said. "We didn't give them very much to watch. It felt like the stadium was half-empty at the end."
Ditka, who also played for the Bears from 1961-66, has cast a long shadow since he was fired after the 1992 season, even after he went to the Saints. But now that rookie coach Dick Jauron has done something his predecesor, Dave Wannstedt, never managed, maybe Ditka's shadow will fade.
"It's not like Ditka was out there playing," Conway said. "I respect what he did here as a coach and a player, but you can't worry about him."
After turning the ball over five times in the first 50 minutes, twice inside the New Orleans 15, the Bears regrouped in the last 10 minutes. They got a break when Ricky Williams got hit on his already-hurt elbow and had to leave with the Saints four yards shy of a first down at the Bears 24.
Lamar Smith ran three times, but the Saints fell a yard short and Chicago took over at its 21.
Matthews then led the Bears on a 10-play, 79-yard scoring drive, capping it with a 22-yard pass to Conway with 1:48 left.
The Saints punted after a pass interference call was waved off, and the Bears started from their 33. Matthews went 5-for-6 in the drive, including a 30-yard pass to Conway to the Saints 6.
On the next play, Matthews hit Conway for the game-winner, and the celebration was on.
"I kept telling him, `Don't give up,"' Conway said. "You could tell Shane was kind of down. But he got it to me down the stretch. We had confidence in him he could do it."
Matthews finished 25-of-39 for 224 yards and two touchdowns. He also was intercepted twice, both times by Ashley Ambrose. Conway had eight catches for 103 yards.
As if the loss wasn't bad enough, the Saints were without Billy Joe Hobert for the second half. Hobert suffered a sprained neck and a cervical stinger when he was hit twice in the head on his 2-yard TD run in the second quarter.
The second hit, by linebacker Rico McDonald, was a vicious, helmet-to-helmet blow, and Hobert's head snapped to the side from the impact. Hobert fell to the ground, grimacing, and lay there for 15 minutes while medical personnel examined him.
"I thought I got my arms broke," Hobert said. "Sort of scary when you think you broke your throwing arm, but it's nothing big. I don't think it's that bad. We'll see."
Williams, who wasn't supposed to play "unless there's an unbelievable change" because of a hyperextended right elbow, rushed for 84 yards. He wore a bulky brace on the elbow, but the injury didn't seem to affect him.
"Honestly, I thought I wasn't going to make it. I came in after warmups and (Ditka) said, `No?' I wanted to say no, but you can't say that to Coach, so I just said yeah," Williams said. "On the sideline, I was so scared right before the first play. I didn't think I'd be able to play."
"After the first hit I realized it wasn't going to hurt that bad and igave me some confidence."
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