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.

Wojciechowski: Un-Bear-able

They're maddening, frustrating, inconsistent and somehow, just one win away from Super Bowl XLI. That's life with the Bears, writes Gene Wojciechowski. Column

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.

Elias Says

Robbie Gould
The second-longest overtime field goal in NFL postseason history gave the Bears a 27-24 win over the Seahawks, and it was set up in part by the shortest punt ever in overtime of a postseason game. Robbie Gould's 49-yard game-winner was one yard short of Gary Anderson's winning kick for the Steelers in overtime of a 1989 wild-card win against the Oilers.

Chicago took possession at its own 34-yard line after an 18-yard punt by Ryan Plackemeier. The previous shortest punt in overtime of an NFL playoff game was 26 yards, by Harry Newsome of the Steelers -- in the same 1989 victory in which Anderson kicked his 50-yard game-winning field goal.

• Read more Elias Says.

"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."

A year ago I'm pounding nails. Now I'm hitting game-winning

kicks and going to the NFC Championship Game.

Robbie Gould, Bears kicker and former construction worker

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.