OAKLAND – Down 18-7 entering the fourth quarter Sunday in Oakland, the Bears valiantly rallied, twice climbing to within five points of the Raiders before ultimately falling 25-20.
Making his first NFL start, Caleb Hanie settled down after throwing three first-half interceptions, eventually completing 18 of 36 passes for 254 yards, two touchdowns and a 56.9 passer rating.
“We would like to have a couple plays back,” said coach Lovie Smith. “But he gave us an opportunity to win at the end on the road against a good defense. We can build off of this performance.”
The Bears didn’t allow a touchdown until Michael Bush’s 3-yard TD run gave the Raiders (7-4) a 25-13 lead with 3:47 left in the fourth quarter. Up to that point, the defense had forced Oakland to settle for six Sebastian Janikowski field goals, the most ever in a game against the Bears.
Robbie Gould answered with field goals of 50 and 53 yards on back-to-back possessions as the Bears closed the gap to 18-13. After Bush’s TD, Hanie hurled an 81-yard bomb to Johnny Knox before throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass to Kellen Davis to cut the deficit to 25-20 with 2:11 left.
The Bears failed to recover the subsequent onside kick, but got the ball back at their own 4-yard line with 1:01 to play and no timeouts remaining. They reached their own 46 before time ran out.
Johnny Knox high-steps into the end zone on his 29-yard TD reception in Sunday's 25-20 loss in Oakland.
“We’ll learn from this game,” Smith said. “We have a lot of football left to go. I like the way our team fought there at the end, but we need to do a little bit more.”
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak and dropped the Bears (7-4) into a second-place tie with the Lions (7-4) in the NFC North. The Falcons (7-4) are also in contention for the two NFC wildcard berths.
The Bears rushed for 172 yards as Marion Barber gained a season-high 63 yards on 10 carries, Matt Forte added 59 yards on 12 attempts and Hanie had 50 yards on five attempts. The line also provided solid protection despite allowing four sacks.
“The guys played great up front and Matt and Marion ran the ball really well,” said Hanie, who started a game for the first time since he was at Colorado State in 2007. “They fought really hard.”
The Bears got off to a slow start on offense, with their first five possessions resulting in two Hanie interceptions and three three-and-outs.
The unit finally showed some life midway through the second quarter when Hanie scrambled for 24 yards on third-and-18 and then beat an all-out blitz with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Knox on a quick slant, giving the Bears a 7-6 lead with 4:41 left in the first half.
The defense played exceptionally well, keeping the Raiders out of the end zone. Corey Graham intercepted a pass for the third straight game and Julius Peppers recorded two of three Bears sacks.
After Janikowski’s 40-yard field goal gave the Raiders an early 3-0 lead, Hanie was intercepted on back-to-back possessions by cornerback Stanford Routt and safety Michael Huff, underthrowing Forte on the first pick and overthrowing the running back on the second.
“When you’re on the road, you can’t turn the ball over the way we did,” Smith said. “We’ve been winning most of the turnover battles. Losing that today didn’t help the case.”
Although the Raiders took over at the Bears’ 31 following the first interception, Peppers sacked Carson Palmer on third down, forcing Oakland to settle for Janikowski’s 48-yard field goal and a 6-0 lead.
After Graham intercepted a pass that Brandon Meriweather had deflected, the Bears converted the turnover into their first points as Hanie and Knox connected for a TD that made it 7-6.
But the Raiders answered as fullback Marcel Reece’s 45-yard gain on a screen pass set up Janikowski’s 42-yard field goal, which put Oakland on top 9-7 with 2:56 remaining in the first half.
After Knox returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yards, the Bears were in position to take the lead. But on second-and-one from the Oakland 7, Hanie sprinted to his right and threw back to his left. His pass intended for Davis was deflected by Aaron Curry and intercepted by Kamerion Wimbley.
The Raiders linebacker rumbled 73 yards before being dragged down by Bears right tackle Lance Louis, who was penalized for a horse-collar tackle, enabling Oakland to take over at the Chicago 6.
After the Bears defense held the Raiders out of the end zone on two plays, Janikowski’s 19-yard field goal widened the margin to 12-7 with :02 left in the half.
Janikowski booted two more field goals in the third quarter as the Raiders increased their lead to 18-7 before the Bears staged a rally that ultimately fell short.