EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—To hear David Terrell echo the beliefs of his teammates on the way off the field Sunday after a rousing 28-21 victory over the New York Giants, if the Bears can make it here, they can make it anywhere.
"We're right back in it, we're right back in it," Terrell shouted after the Bears made the home team look as feeble as the visitors to Giants Stadium were perceived before the game.
Despite an apparent rib injury to unbeaten rookie quarterback Craig Krenzel that required postgame X-rays, the Bears (3-5) headed home believing a defense that created five turnovers could carry them back into playoff contention.
Whether Krenzel will be healthy enough next weekend at Tennessee to try to win his third straight NFL start remained unclear Sunday night. He winced as he buttoned his shirt in the locker room, and the Bears made him unavailable for comment.
But more than one giddy player mentioned the Lions' loss to Washington and the Vikings' penchant for late-season collapses in the context of their freshly reshaped goals.
"It's a long seasontwo halves, four quarters," Terrell said. "Detroit and Minnesota jumped out quick in the first half, so it's our time to go out quick. It's going to be us."
Using an us-vs.-them approach helped coach Lovie Smith get the Bears revved up to dominate the Giants (5-3). With articles he considered derogatory and TV commentators he heard pick the Giants, Smith let the media deliver his Rockne speech for him.
"We'll use any motivational tool we can get," Smith said. "This is not an upset to them in there. We're a good football team."
It did not look that way after the Giants took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on two Tiki Barber touchdown runs and had a third Barber TD nullified by a holding penalty.
Then the Bears assumed control of the game in what seemed like a New York minute. Actually, it took 5 minutes 48 seconds to go from a 14-0 deficit to a 17-14 lead.
"It snowballed," Smith said.
The roll began with 6:02 left in the second quarter when the Bears, down 14-0, called a timeout at their 37-yard line after consecutive false-start penalties on linemen Olin Kreutz and Ruben Brown.
As the offense seemed at its discombobulated worst on the field, the defense hung its collective head on the sideline. Defensive backs coach Vance Bedford called the unit together on the bench and challenged the group in his own inimitable way.
"He just told us we were better than that, forget about it and play ball," said defensive end Alex Brown, who had four of the defense's seven sacks.
Back on the field, the offense rehuddled and regrouped. Krenzel hit Terrell for a 28-yard completion and followed that with a beauty of a throw to rookie Bernard Berrian for a 35-yard touchdown.
"Sometimes that's all you need, a big play and a little success to keep going to break that rhythm of three-and-out," offensive tackle John Tait said.
The defense fed off that energy. Three plays into the Giants' next possession, safety Mike Green recovered an Ike Hilliard fumble he forced to give the Bears the ball back on the New York 29.
Two plays and an unnecessary-roughness penalty later, Anthony Thomas scored the first of his two TDs on a 4-yard run to tie it.
"We weren't going to lie down," Green said. "Every day it's turnovers, turnovers. Lovie's got that stuck in our heads."