Gould's 49-yarder in OT vaults Bears into NFC title game

CHICAGO (AP) -- Two swings of the foot by Robbie Gould were all
the Chicago Bears needed to offset any shortcomings in Rex Grossman's arm.

And the Chicago Bears got their first playoff win since 1995,
moving them one step from the Super Bowl.

Gould, working construction 16 months ago, cleared a path for
the Bears with his strong leg Sunday, kicking a 49-yard field goal
in overtime for a 27-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. The
game-winner came shortly after Grossman got them in position with a
clutch pass to Rashied Davis.

"A year ago I'm pounding nails. Now I'm hitting game-winning
kicks and going to the NFC Championship Game," Gould said. "I
didn't even watch the end of it. I hit it right where I wanted it
to go."

Where the Bears want to go is their first Super Bowl in 21
years. Chicago will host the Saints next Sunday in the NFC
title game; New Orleans never has been this far.

"We win one game and we're in the Super Bowl," Grossman said,
"two wins away from having a ring on my finger for the rest of my

Grossman, one of the most scrutinized figures in the
football-crazed city for his inconsistent performances, set up the
kick with his pass to Davis.

"In every game you're not going to play perfect. There were
several situations where I wish I would've had a few plays back,
but for the most part I'm pleased," Grossman said.

Grossman completed 21 of 38 for 282 yards with an interception
and a fumble. It was quite an upgrade from his final performance of
the regular season, when he had a quarterback rating of 0.0 in a
loss to Green Bay.

Seattle got the ball first in overtime, but Chicago's Israel
Idonije forced an 18-yard punt by Ryan Plackemeier with a strong
rush. Grossman hit Davis for a third-down pass of 30 yards to the
Seattle 36.

"I've learned that he knows how to bounce back from tough
situations," coach Lovie Smith said of Grossman. "He's been
roasted the past couple weeks over all different kinds of things.
He is our quarterback. ... There was a lot of pressure on him and
our entire football team and I thought they handled it well."

The unheralded Davis is a former Arena League player.

"After I got up, I screamed. It was probably the biggest catch
I made in my life," Davis said.

Gould, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent and is now
headed to the Pro Bowl, made his first 24 field goals this season,
and 32 of 36 overall. His 41-yarder with 4:24 left Sunday just
cleared the crossbar and tied the game at 24.

The Bears had won a division title and earned a first-round bye
in their previous two playoff appearances, only to lose their first
game at home, so their elation was tinged with relief.

The Seahawks (10-8), ravaged by injuries throughout the season,
got a strong performance from Shaun Alexander. Alexander, who
missed the first meeting between the teams, a 37-6 Chicago win in
October, gained 108 yards and gave the Bears' defense a tough time.
He had a pair of touchdowns runs.

"It's hard to say 'If we had this or that,'" Alexander said.
"It was, 'Nah, we came up short.'"

Late in the fourth quarter, the Bears stacked up Alexander on
third-and-1 for no gain at the Chicago 44, and the Seahawks decided
to go for it. But Matt Hasselbeck bobbled the snap and Lance Briggs
threw Alexander for a 2-yard loss, turning the ball over to the
Bears with just under two minutes to go.

"If the snap was smooth, I could have run for a TD," Alexander
said. "It was definitely the best I felt all season running the

After a short completion and two of Grossman's passes were
deflected -- one nearly intercepted -- the Bears punted.

The Seahawks got the ball at the 20 with 1:38 to go and moved to
the Bears' 45 before Tank Johnson, whose legal problems have been a
headache for his team this season, sacked Hasselbeck.

Davis made his catch when Jordan Babineaux let him get past the
line. Babineaux, who also missed an early interception Saturday,
hauled down Tony Romo after he bobbled the snap on a field goal
attempt in Seattle's 21-20 victory over Dallas last weekend.

"We had this game," Babineaux said of Sunday's disheartening
loss. "My job was to reroute the receiver [Davis] and he got
behind me real quick. I was supposed to knock him off his route."

Last year's NFC champs took their first lead in the third
quarter and momentarily silenced the bundled up crown at Soldier
Field -- temperatures were in the 30s -- when Alexander ran up the
middle for a 13-yard TD on a third-and-10 to make it 24-21.

Earlier, as Gould made a field goal that would have tied the
game, Seattle's Leroy Hill was called for jumping up and trying to
induce a false start. Instead of the three points, the Bears got 5
extra yards on the penalty and a first down at the Seattle 13.

But Grossman's pass went off Muhsin Muhammad's shoulder pad and
Pete Hunter, who had been working in a mortgage office before being
signed before the playoffs, intercepted early in the fourth

Hasselbeck gave it right back on first down when his pass was
intercepted by Ricky Manning Jr. at the 32. The Bears couldn't
convert and punted.

Seattle moved swiftly to the Bears 21 on the opening series of
the second half, but Briggs knocked Alexander back for a 1-yard
loss on third-and-1. Josh Brown connected on a 40-yard field goal
that got the Seahawks within 21-17.

Alexander showed at times why he was the 2005 MVP. In the second
quarter, he broke off a 13-yard run, and on fourth-and-1 from the
Bears 4, he bulled his way into the end zone to make it 14-14 with
2:29 left in the first half. The score was set up by Grossman's

But the Bears didn't run out the clock. Grossman rebounded from
the turnover, finding Muhammad for 21 yards and Davis with an
18-yarder to the 16.

Muhammad grabbed another pass to the 7, and Thomas Jones ran in
for the score on fourth down for a 21-14 lead.

Jones opened the scoring with a for a 9-yard TD to cap a
12-play, 80-yard drive that opened the game.

Seattle got even early in the second quarter. Hasselbeck hit
passes of 24 and 14 yards to Darrell Jackson, the Seahawks' leading
receiver who's been bothered by a sore toe. Nate Burleson powered
his way into the end zone to complete a 16-yard scoring pass play.

The tie lasted 18 seconds. Grossman hit a streaking Bernard
Berrian in stride behind rookie corner Kelly Jennings, who was
picked on all day, for a 68-yard TD pass.

Game notes
The Bears are in the NFC title game for the first time
since Jan. 8, 1989, when they were beaten by the 49ers. ... Bears
specialist Devin Hester, who set an NFL record with six kick
returns for TDs this season, almost had another in the fourth
quarter. His 63-yarder was called back for an illegal block on
Manning Jr.


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