Bears make statement with win over GiantsNov 13, 2006 - 4:57 AM EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- After again being bitten by the injury bug, the New York Giants were devoured by the Chicago Bears.
Rookie Devin Hester matched the longest play in NFL history by returning a missed field goal 108 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter as the Bears made a loud statement with a 38-20 victory over the New York Giants.
Trying to match the Bears (8-1) for the NFC's best record, the Giants (6-3) were missing four defensive starters. They suffered two more critical injuries and a possible third during the contest.
Starting left tackle Luke Petitgout left in the first quarter with a fractured left leg and starting left cornerback Sam Madison aggravated a hamstring injury in the second quarter.
The Giants may have even another injury to deal with. Pro Bowl running back Tiki Barber, who rushed for 141 yards and leads the league with 971, sprained his right thumb in the first quarter. He played through the injury but television replays showed him holding the hand on the sidelines in the fourth quarter.
Hester, a speedy second-round pick, added to the Giants' pain in the fourth quarter.
With the Giants trailing, 24-20, coach Tom Coughlin called on Jay Feely to attempt a 52-yard field goal in windy conditions, a move that backfired.
Hester fielded Feely's kick that came up short. After hesitating, he raced untouched down the right sideline, picking up blocks along the way to give the Bears a 31-20 lead with 11:20 remaining.
"I probably would have downed it if I saw defenders coming at me," said Hester, who has punt returns of 84 and 83 yards for touchdowns this season. "It seemed like all of them were walking off the field like it was over. So I decided to take it out. It surprised me."
Giants coach Tom Coughlin took responsibility for the decision to go for the field goal.
"It's very difficult to cover a field goal," Coughlin said. "The people who do it are not the kind of people who normally do it for you."
"It's hard when you have a speed guy like that and all offensive lineman down the field," Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce said. "They don't have a chance of catching a guy like that."
Hester's return came nearly a year to the day, when teammate Nathan Vasher brought back a missed field goal 108 yards for a score against San Francisco on November 13, 2005.
Brandon Jacobs had scored on an eight-yard run with 3:26 left in the third quarter to pull the Giants within 24-20.
Rex Grossman recovered from a poor first quarter to throw for three touchdowns for Chicago, which bounced back from last week's shocking loss to Miami.
"We like our position right now, one game after the first half," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "There is so much football left to go, but we still like being undefeated in the NFC right now. We like being undefeated on the road. We like the position. All we have done is put ourselves in position for the playoff run."
Thomas Jones also picked things up, rushing for 78 of his 113 yards and a touchdown in the second half. He also had a key 26-yard run on a 3rd-and-22 at the end of the first half to set up a touchdown.
The Bears' top-ranked defense failed to contain Barber but frustrated Eli Manning, who completed 14-of-32 passes for 121 yards with two interceptions.
"It is very disappointing. I think in the first half we had the opportunity to take advantage of some good field position and turnovers by our defense," Manning said. "We need to get touchdowns in those situations.
"We knew we were going against a tough defense. We had an opportunity to get an early lead but we got field goals instead of touchdowns and then missed field goals. We had some missed opportunities and too many mistakes, a lot on my part. We need to figure out a way to get better and I have to play better football."
Manning also lost a fumble deep in his own territory in the third quarter after being sacked by defensive end Alex Brown, who went around 15-year veteran Bob Whitfield, who was replacing Petitgout.
The miscue set up Grossman's two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Desmond Clark, which gave the Bears a 24-13 lead. Grossman had thrown a 10-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammed earlier in the third quarter to give the Bears the lead for good.
With 35 seconds left in the second quarter, Grossman picked on Madison to find Mark Bradley for a 29-yard touchdown to pull the Bears within 13-10. Madison limped to the sidelines after the TD.
The night did get off to a rough start for Grossman, who completed 18-of-30 passes for 246 yards with an interception. He was picked off three times in last week's loss.
"They came out playing really well," Grossman said. "They came out with a lot of intensity. They hit us in the mouth a little bit. We weathered the storm and got into a rhythm and played well. It's good to see us bounce back from adversity and play well."
On the Bears' first possession, Grossman was intercepted by rookie defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who broke off a 32-yard return to the Chicago 1.
Jacobs rumbled in for the first of his two touchdowns on the next play, giving the Giants a 7-0 lead.
Robbie Gould improved to 23-for-23 on the season by kicking a 49-yard field goal with 5:59 left in the first quarter to get the Bears on the board.
But Jones lost a fumble at his own 31 in the final minute of the first quarter to set up Feely's 46-yard field goal.
Chad Morton's 36-yard punt return set up Feely's 40-yard field goal, which gave the Giants a 13-3 lead with 2:21 left in the half.
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