Eagles Blow Lead Again, and Bears Make Them Pay

It was a crushing loss for Michael Vick and the Eagles (3-5), who blew a fourth-quarter lead for the fourth time this season. Jeremy Maclin fell down and was tackled at the Bears’ 30 after a 9-yard catch on fourth-and-10 with a little less than two minutes left. The Eagles, the defending N.F.C. East champions, are three games behind the first-place Giants.

Chicago (5-3) won its third straight game, but remains third in the N.F.C. North behind Green Bay (8-0) and Detroit (6-2).

After LeSean McCoy’s 33-yard touchdown run following Forte’s second fumble gave the Eagles a 24-17 lead in the third quarter, the Bears answered with 13 straight points.

Robbie Gould kicked a 38-yard field goal to make it 24-20 game, and then Chicago’s defense forced a punt after three plays.

The Bears drove 51 yards for the go-ahead score with Cutler tossing a pass to Bennett over Asante Samuel for a 27-24 lead.

The Eagles reached the Bears’ 42 on their next drive. On fourth-and-6, punter Chas Henry bounced a pass to a wide-open Colt Anderson and Chicago took advantage.

A pass-interference penalty on Nnamdi Asomugha at the Eagles’ 7 prolonged the drive. The defense stiffened and Gould hit a 22-yarder to extend the lead to 30-24.

BLOW FOR COWBOYS Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin left in the second quarter of Sunday’s win over Seattle with a right hamstring injury and did not return. He is expected to be out for as long as a month.

HILLIS STILL OUT Coach Pat Shurmur said that running back Peyton Hillis would not play in Cleveland’s game against St. Louis, the fourth straight game he has missed since straining his left hamstring Oct. 16.

Hillis was on track to play Sunday in Houston, but reinjured his hamstring during practice on Friday. Shurmur said Hillis would spend the week rehabilitating his nagging injury and there were no immediate plans to place him on injured reserve.

TAMPA BAY LOSES MCCOY Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy will miss the rest of the season because of a torn right biceps.

McCoy, the third overall pick in last year’s draft, was injured Sunday during the opening quarter of a 27-16 defeat to New Orleans that dropped the Buccaneers (4-4) to third place in the N.F.C. South. McCoy had 13 tackles, including a sack.

RAMS’ TOP RECEIVER SHELVED St. Louis wide receiver Greg Salas, who leads the team with 27 receptions, will miss the rest of the season with a broken right leg that will require surgery.

GORE LIKELY TO PLAY X-rays on the left ankle of San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore were negative. Gore, who has five straight 100-yard games, said he expected to practice this week and play against the Giants.

BILLS KICKER SIDELINED Buffalo Coach Chan Gailey ruled out kicker Rian Lindell, who was hurt against the Jets, from playing at Dallas on Sunday. Gailey said the injury to Lindell’s right shoulder was “not good,” and the team will try out replacements.

Matt Forte Leads Bears to 24-18 Win Over Bucs

Forte ran for 145 yards and a touchdown and the Bears held on to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-18 on Sunday in the fifth annual NFL regular season game at Wembley Stadium.

Jay Cutler threw for 226 yards and a touchdown and the Bears (4-3) intercepted Josh Freeman four times for their second win in a row. The Buccaneers (4-3) lost for the second time in three years in London.

Freeman threw two TD passes in the fourth quarter to pull the Bucs within three points with just over 7 minutes left. But, after a 25-yard field goal by Chicago’s Robbie Gould, Freeman was picked off for the fourth time with 37 seconds left by D.J. Moore to end the threat.

Tampa Bay’s loss completed a miserable day for the Glazer family, owners of the Bucs and Manchester United. Earlier, the Glazers were on hand at Old Trafford as the English Premier League champions were thrashed 6-1 by crosstown rival Manchester City. The Glazers came straight down to London for the NFL game and ended up 0-2 for the day. The Bucs lost to New England, 35-7, in London two years ago.

Attendance was 76,981, short of a sellout in the 82,000-capacity Wembley. It’s the first time since the NFL began playing regular season games here five years ago that tickets haven’t sold out. Organizers blamed the NFL lockout, which meant the game wasn’t officially confirmed and tickets put on sale until a few months ago — rather than at the beginning of the year as in the past.

Still, the game provided plenty of action, as well as plenty of turnovers, penalties and some unusual moments — including when a male fan ran onto the field, ripped off his shirt and high-fived players before being tackled by security guards.

Forte, who came to London with a league-leading 908 yards running and receiving, went over the 1,000 yard mark after seven games.

He was already over 100 yards for the game with 8:39 left in the first half. He broke through the right side of the Bucs defense and cut back across the field for a weaving 32-yard TD run that put the Bears ahead in the first quarter. He also had a 22-yard run on the same drive.

Forte also ended up in his own end zone a few minutes later, tackled for a safety by Ronde Barber. That capped a quirky sequence of back-to back interceptions. First, Tanard Jackson picked off a ball that went through Marion Barber’s hands and returned it 42 yards to the Chicago 21. On the next play, Freeman hit Mike Williams over the middle at the goal line, but Chicago safety Chris Conte wrestled the ball out of his arms for a takeaway.

Freeman finished 29 of 51 for 264 yards and two touchdowns. Cutler was 17 of 32 for 226 yards and two interceptions.

The Bucs had to rely on the pass after losing running back Earnest Graham in the first quarter to a right ankle injury. He was starting for the second straight week in place of LeGarrette Blount, who was out with a knee injury.

Cutler found Roy Williams for a 25-yard touchdown pass with 7:49 to go in the half to put the Bears up 14-2. The score was set up by a 29-yard run by Marion Barber on third and 1.

Freeman and the Bucs offense looked out of synch for most of the first half. One Tampa possession early in the second quarter included four penalties in a row and five in all — three against the Bucs and two against the Bears.

The Bucs didn’t pick up a first down until just over three minutes left in first quarter and had five first downs in the half. Freeman finally got the offense moving late in the first half, leading a 77-yard-drive on 10 plays with a mix of short and medium-range throws, but the Bucs had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Connor Barth as time expired.

After an interception by Corey Lynch, Freeman hit Kellen Winslow for a 2-yard TD with 12:18 left in the game to pull within 21-11. The Bucs went for a 2-point conversion but Freeman’s quick slant to Mario Williams fell incomplete.

After the Bears went three-and-out, Freeman led the Bucs on a 53-yard scoring drive, capped by a 24-yard throw to Dezmon Briscoe with 7:17 to play to close to 21-18.

But the Bears drove 64 yards in 12 plays, with Gould’s field goal with 1:55 left putting the Bears back up by six.

Dan McGrath: Chicago Fans in Wonderland

That Bears team that absorbed an from the Detroit Lions on Monday has as much chance of making the N.F.L. playoffs as

What?

O.K., as much chance as the as their general manager.

Wait, that’s also happening? Sure, and Ron Zook’s well-schooled .

It is?

I’m thinking I should have passed on that last round when some old buddies were in town the other night. Chicago sports can be confusing in the best of times. But none of this makes any sense.

What was particularly unsettling about the Bears’ loss was how bad they looked with Jay Cutler playing very well. Cutler, the whipping-boy quarterback, put up credible numbers against a pass rush out to decapitate him, at times neutralizing it by being resourceful, nimble and tough.

Imagine how good he’d be behind an offensive line that can protect him; understanding the snap count would be a start. Or with a go-to receiver whose size and speed suggest something more than a Volkswagen Beetle.

Cutler and Matt Forte aside, the Bears looked as clueless and inept as they routinely did in the pre-Payton ’70s; remember Kent Nix? The coaching staff bears some of the responsibility.

Lovie Smith and his crew had to know the Lions’ 4-0 start and first Monday night appearance in a decade would have the Ford Field crowd amped up and frat-party boisterous. The Bears responded with nine false-start penalties. How’s that for preparation?

Putting points on the board — even 3 points — is one way of quieting a rambunctious crowd. The Bears had a chance to score first late in the first quarter, but they disdained a 43-yard field goal attempt and went for the first down on fourth-and-one. They got smothered, but not before burning their final timeout of the half. And instead of calming down, the crowd got charged up enough for a virtual storming of the field, crazed vigilantes with lanterns and pitchforks and plenty of beer. Good luck, Jay.

Here’s a sobering thought: The Lovie Smith Bears have always been a defense-oriented team that prides itself on a tenacious refusal to surrender a big play. The Lions gashed that defense for 73- and 88-yard touchdowns. One week earlier, Carolina rolled up 543 yards behind a rookie quarterback, Cam Newton. The week before that, Aaron Rodgers could have sampled the United Club’s lunch buffet while waiting for his receivers to break free on a 297-yard, three-touchdown afternoon. Matt Ryan and Drew Brees combined for 589 passing yards in Weeks 1 and 2.

If the Bears are not a good defensive team, they’re not a good team, period. Too flawed to make the playoffs? Maybe not.

They’re not in the Packers’ class, obviously. Or New Orleans’, and probably not the Lions’. But who else in the N.F.C. is really scary? San Francisco is 4-1 on the manic energy of first-year coach Jim Harbaugh — let’s see if that survives a season. Philadelphia’s “Dream Team” splurge looks like the worst expenditure of free-agent money since the White Sox fell for Adam Dunn. Atlanta? Scuffling; already lost to the Bears. Tampa Bay? The Bucs just took a 41-3 whomping from the 49ers. The Cowboys, Redskins and Giants? Throw a blanket over them — they’re the same team.

With winnable games against the Vikings and Bucs up next, the Bears could get to 4-3 at their bye week. Then it’s back to teasing us — sort of like the Cubs’ pursuit of Theo Epstein, but with less satisfying results.

Yes, Epstein, the boy-wonder general manager, delivered two World Series titles in four years to a Boston franchise that had been 86 years without one, but if those salary figures being tossed around are accurate, you’d think Epstein had invented baseball.

He didn’t, but he’s widely credited with perfecting the “Moneyball” version, combining ample resources and numbers-driven smarts. That’s the brand the Tom Ricketts Cubs intend to play, and thus the attraction.

Turns out it was mutual. The Red Sox have become the New England Yankees; every year they don’t win is deemed a failure, with this year’s 7-20 collapse just unacceptable. Expectations like that wear on a man. The Cubs, by comparison, are a softball team at the company picnic.

The dreamiest chatter depicts Epstein as the closer on a Wrigley Field ballpark deal, as if he’d been out there in hardhat and boots overseeing the much-admired Fenway renovations. Not really — Epstein is a baseball guy, and a good one, though hardly perfect. The Red Sox are two years without a playoff berth, and they’d probably take Al Soriano’s contract for John Lackey’s equally bad one, or Carl Crawford’s.

What the Cubs want from Epstein is the eye for talent and developmental know-how that brought Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury and other homegrown prospects to Boston. That sort of package doesn’t arrive via overnight mail. The Cubs have some work to do before they’re any good, even if Epstein shows up with a couple of starting pitchers and an outfield bat with some pop in tow.

Terry Francona? Ryne Sandberg? Interesting either way. The question then is who gets the lake named after him if the Cubs finally win.

dmcgrath@chicagonewscoop.org