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Bears' Home Opener a Dud

They drop to 0-3 after breaking in a new Soldier Field with an embarrassing 38-23 loss to their NFC North rivals, the Packers.

September 30, 2003|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO — Their new stadium is shaped like a flying saucer, but the 0-3 Chicago Bears are decidedly ground-bound.

That was painfully obvious Monday as the Green Bay Packers built a three-touchdown lead in the first half then withstood a late rally to clinch a 38-23 victory, spoiling the Bears' debut at the new Soldier Field.

"Huge game, man, and we just embarrassed ourselves one more time," Bear linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "We had a chance to do it tonight. We came out and laid a big one."

The setting was different, but the outcome was familiar. The Packers have beaten the Bears in 17 of their last 19 meetings, and Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre has won 10 in a row against the Bears on the road.

But it was Green Bay's Ahman Green who delivered the first blow. He scored on a 60-yard run less than four minutes into the game, setting the tone for his huge rushing night.

"He does make them miss," Packer Coach Mike Sherman said of Green, who finished with 176 yards in 19 carries. "He has the speed to take it the distance."

The Bears fell behind, 17-0, in the first quarter and by as much as three touchdowns in the second. They finally got on the scoreboard with 9:07 remaining in the first half, when Paul Edinger kicked his first of three field goals. His second came in the final minute of the half, and his third accounted for the only scoring in the third quarter.

Chicago got a big boost when Anthony Thomas tore off a 67-yard touchdown run with 12:36 to play in the game, cutting Green Bay's lead to 24-16 and giving the Bears a sliver of hope.

Like the trademark columns out front, though, that was only a facade.

A quick pair of scoring passes by Favre put the game out of reach.

He threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Javon Walker with 8 minutes 51 seconds to play, widening Green Bay's lead to 31-16.

The Packers increased the advantage on their next possession, when Favre capped a 54-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown pass to Bubba Franks. That score was set up by a pass-interference call on cornerback Charles Tillman, who was flagged in the end zone.

"[Favre] was making some magic out there," Sherman said of his quarterback, who completed 21 of 30 passes for 179 yards with three touchdowns.

Chicago quarterback Kordell Stewart completed 25 of 44 pass attempts for 201 yards, with two interceptions.

"[This game] will be a testimony to how we play," said Stewart, who also rushed for 71 yards, scoring a cosmetic touchdown on a one-yard run with 1:28 to play.

"Either you have pride, or you like getting your [butt] kicked. You have to fess up, man, and try to do something about it."

The Bears, who played last season at the University of Illinois in Champaign, were making their first return to Chicago since the old Soldier Field was demolished after a January 2002 playoff loss to Philadelphia.

It's almost a cruel hoax the Bears had to christen their new home by playing a team that has owned them since 1994. But spectators seemed to like the $365-million palace, the centerpiece of a massive lakefront redevelopment project.

The stadium, dubbed by some the "Eyesore on the Lakeshore," had a few glitches on opening night, notably the closure of several restrooms because of plumbing problems. Overall, though, fans seemed to like the place.

"I haven't heard any negative reactions from fans, and I've talked to hundreds of fans," Bear owner Mike McCaskey said. "As I walked to get here tonight, everybody's saying, 'Congratulations' and 'Love the building.' "

Some architectural critics have panned the stadium, calling it a "desecration" of a national historic monument.

McCaskey said he isn't fazed by the criticism.

"I think it comes down to when you have something that's dramatically bold and new, some people are going to want to stick with what's comfortable," he said. "It takes a while for them to see the inherent beauty."

The halftime festivities included the introduction of several legendary Bears, among them Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers and Mike Singletary, as well as Connie Payton, wife of the late Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue also was in attendance.



Ranking Favre

A look at where Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre ranks in three passing categories.

Career yards:

*--* 1. Dan Marino 61,361 2. John Elway 51,475 3. Warren Moon 49,325 4. Fran Tarkenton 47,003 5. Brett Favre 43,089


Career completions:

*--* 1. Dan Marino 4,967 2. John Elway 4,123 3. Warren Moon 3,988 4. Brett Favre 3,736 5. Fran Tarkenton 3,686


Career touchdown passes:

*--* 1. Dan Marino 420 2. Fran Tarkenton 342 3. Brett Favre 321 4. John Elway 300 5. Warren Moon 291


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