Final

Bears 42

(11-2, 6-1 away)

Rams 27

(5-8, 3-4 home)

Coverage: ESPN/WatchESPN

8:30 PM ET, December 11, 2006

Edward Jones Dome, Saint Louis, MO 

1 2 3 4 T
CHI 0 14 14 1442
STL 0 13 0 1427

Top Performers

Passing: M. Bulger (STL) - 356 YDS, 3 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: S. Jackson (STL) - 18 CAR, 81 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: K. Curtis (STL) - 4 REC, 77 YDS

High-stepping, balanced attack of Bears dumps Rams

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Devin Hester expects teams to keep on kicking deep to him. And he expects to keep right on returning those kicks to the end zone.

Elias Says

Rex Grossman
With a win Monday, Rex Grossman is 15-5 as a starter in the NFL. He's only the second quarterback in the last 50 years to win at least 15 of his first 20 starts for the Bears from the start of his NFL career. The only other quarterback to do that over the last half-century was Mike Tomczak, who was 17-3 in his first 20 starts from 1986 to 1989.

• For more Elias Says, Click here

The high-stepping rookie got the Rams' home dome rocking with chants of "Let's Go Bears!" as he set an NFL record with his fifth and sixth returns for touchdowns this season, a 94-yard kickoff runback in the second quarter and a 96-yarder in the final period Monday night. That sparked a 42-27 victory that gave the NFC North champions (11-2) a bye for the first week of the playoffs.

"It's the NFL and a team is not going to bow down to one player," Hester said. "They'll continue to kick to me."

They're fools if they do.

"It's like the gates of Heaven opening up for me," he added.

A second-round draft pick, Hester also has three punt return touchdowns and ran back a missed field goal 108 yards against the Giants to tie the longest play in NFL history. But he'd returned only six kickoffs all year before his historic romps that made the thousands of fans who trekked from Chicago rise from their seats.

"I almost thought we were back at Soldier Field," coach Lovie Smith said.

Hester struggled to find a position in college at Miami, but he's been a sensation with the ball in his hands on kick returns for the Bears.

"The story of the game is Devin Hester," Smith said. "It's time we start looking at him as an offensive player. There are a lot of good offensive rookies in the league making big plays, but who has had as much impact as Devin Hester has in the league as a rookie right now?"

He came through the middle on the first runback, then swiftly cut to his left untouched and sped down the sideline, high-stepping like a drum major the last few yards while holding up the football for the raucous Bears fans.

Hester outdid himself in the fourth quarter when it appeared the Rams might try an onside kick. The only Bear standing deep, he went straight up the center of the field, again untouched, and turned around at the Rams 20 looking for pursuers. No one was there.

Scouts Inc.'s take ...
Rex Grossman answered his critics by being very secure with the ball and firing accurate passes. Grossman played with poise and looking relaxed executing the Bears' offense. St. Louis gave Chicago a early challenge, but once again huge plays by the Bears' special teams and defense set the tone, allowing Grossman to play with a lead and a strong running game.

He admitted it was a tribute to his friend Deion Sanders.

"That played a major role in us losing the game," Rams cornerback Ron Bartell said. "We lost by 15. You take away those two returns, we've got a pretty good game."

Beleaguered quarterback Rex Grossman had a pretty good game and the Chicago running attack dominated the last two quarters.

Carrying a 14-13 lead into the second half, the Bears outgained the Rams (5-8) 191 yards to 31 in the third quarter. They scored on Thomas Jones' 30-yard run and Muhsin Muhammad's superb fingertip catch of a 14-yard pass from Grossman, who probably quieted calls for his benching -- particularly from the thousands of fans who outshouted Rams rooters much of the evening.

"They were all over the place tonight," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "I could hear the crowd chanting `Bears, Bears, Bears.' Man, that's a warm feeling being away from home."

Grossman was 6-for-19 for 34 yards in a win over Minnesota last week and had thrown six interceptions and no touchdowns in the last two games, but was 13-for-23 for 200 yards and two scores against St. Louis. Aside from the fade pass to Muhammad, he hit Bernard Berrian on a perfect slant pattern for a 34-yard score late in the second period.

"The best way of describing it is efficient and decisive and getting the ball to guys I needed to," Grossman said.

Chicago rushed for just 65 yards against the Rams' porous run defense in the first half, then Jones gained 58 yards on the Bears' first series of the second half. That included a 24-yarder featuring a flashy spin move.

The Rams did get a 6-yard TD pass to Torry Holt midway through the fourth quarter, and a 6-yarder to Steve Jackson with 4:41 left. But they barely stung thanks to Hester's heroics.

"To beat a team like that you almost have to play perfect, and we didn't," QB Marc Bulger said. Now the Rams have lost seven of eight and are all but eliminated from playoff consideration.

Chicago kicker Robbie Gould missed twice on field goal attempts -- from 37 and 49 yards. They were just his second and third misses of the season.

When Chicago's special teams came through early -- on Brad Maynard's punt downed at the St. Louis 1 -- the defense couldn't. Holt caught consecutive passes of 13 and 16 yards, then Marc Bulger's perfect throw on third-and-13 found Kevin Curtis for 39 yards. Looking like the vintage Rams of the early decade on the 99-yard drive, they also converted a fourth-and-1 on Stephen Davis's 16-yard run to the 1 before Holt's double move beat Hester for the score.

A bad snap botched the extra point.

To their credit, the Rams responded immediately to Hester's first TD return with a 72-yard drive featuring Jackson, who gained 35 yards and ran in from the 2.

It was then the Bears' turn for an impressive drive that covered 74 yards, capped by Berrian's 34-yard TD catch and run for a 14-13 halftime edge.

Game Notes
Bulger finished 34-for-55 for 356 yards, three touchdowns and one interception ... Jackson, the NFC leader in yards from scrimmage, gained 139 against Chicago, giving him 1,789 for the season ... Jones left after tweaking his ankle late in the game, Smith said ... Rams LB Pisa Tinoisamoa broke his right hand in the second quarter. He's been playing with a broken left hand and a dislocated left elbow that has forced him into a harness ... Rams DE Leonard Little injured his throat.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ESPNChicago.com 

Team Stat Comparison

 
CHI
STL
1st Downs2228
Passing 1st downs
1018
Rushing 1st downs
75
1st downs from penalties
55
3rd down efficiency
6-126-17
4th down efficiency
0-03-3
Total Plays5780
Total Yards372433
Yards per play6.55.4
Total Drives1213
Passing200332
Comp-Att
13-2334-55
Yards per pass
8.75.7
Interceptions thrown
01
Sacks-Yards Lost
0-03-24
Rushing172101
Rushing Attempts
3422
Yards per rush
5.14.6
Red Zone (Made-Att)2-34-4
Penalties11-8611-91
Turnovers01
Fumbles lost
00
Interceptions thrown
01
Defensive / Special Teams TDs20
Possession26:3933:21

Passing Leaders

CHIC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Grossman13/232008.7200-0
STLC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Bulger34/553566.5313-24

Rushing Leaders

CHICARYDSAVGTDLG
Jones11766.9130
Benson16644.009
STLCARYDSAVGTDLG
Jackson18814.5121
Davis3299.7016

Receiving Leaders

CHIRECYDSAVGTDLG
Berrian36220.7134
Muhammad35016.7121
STLRECYDSAVGTDLG
Curtis47719.3042
Holt67512.5226

Scoring Summary

SECOND QUARTERCHISTL
stlTD12:54Torry Holt, 1 yd pass from Marc Bulger
Drive info: 12 plays, 99 yds, 6:22
06
chiTD12:45Devin Hester, 94 yd kickoff return (Robbie Gould kick is good)
Drive info: 12 plays, 99 yds, 6:22
76
stlTD7:50Steven Jackson, 2 yd run (Jeff Wilkins kick is good)
Drive info: 8 plays, 72 yds, 4:49
713
chiTD3:36Bernard Berrian, 34 yd pass from Rex Grossman (Robbie Gould kick is good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 74 yds, 4:13
1413
THIRD QUARTERCHISTL
chiTD8:51Thomas Jones, 30 yd run (Robbie Gould kick is good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 94 yds, 3:16
2113
chiTD3:39Muhsin Muhammad, 14 yd pass from Rex Grossman (Robbie Gould kick is good)
Drive info: 8 plays, 74 yds, 3:44
2813
FOURTH QUARTERCHISTL
chiTD13:14Adrian Peterson, 1 yd run (Robbie Gould kick is good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 55 yds, 4:30
3513
stlTD7:41Torry Holt, 6 yd pass from Marc Bulger (Jeff Wilkins kick is good)
Drive info: 15 plays, 89 yds, 5:29
3520
chiTD7:35Devin Hester, 96 yd kickoff return (Robbie Gould kick is good)
Drive info: 1 plays, 96 yds, 0:00
4220
stlTD4:48Steven Jackson, 6 yd pass from Marc Bulger (Jeff Wilkins kick is good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 73 yds, 2:41
4227