Janikowski kicks 6 FGs as Raiders beat Bears 25-20

Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler are the only remaining

ties to the Oakland Raiders’ last playoff run.

They used their big legs to send the Raiders into December alone

in first place for the first time since those three division titles

from 2000-02.

Janikowski kicked a team-record six field goals, Lechler had an

80-yard punt and neutralized ace returner Devin Hester, and the

Raiders took advantage of three interceptions of Chicago’s Caleb

Hanie to beat the Bears 25-20 Sunday.

”We just want to see this thing come full circle, have this

organization be back on top,” Lechler said.

Janikowski made field goals of 40, 47, 42, 19, 37 and 44 yards

to break the team record he shared with Jeff Jaeger.

Lechler controlled field position all game with a 49.2-yard net

average, pinning Hester and the Bears inside the 20 on three of

five punts and booming the team-record 80-yarder over his head with

a boot that generated ”oohs” and ”aahs” from the crowd and his

teammates.

”Our two kickers are fantastic,” coach Hue Jackson said.

”There’s not another punter or kicker in the National Football

League I would ever want to have on the football team. I said to

the team when this was over, those were the two men who were here

the last time this team was 7-4. Those guys have a lot to do with

it. They did a tremendous job.”

Carson Palmer threw for 301 yards and Michael Bush iced the game

with a touchdown run in the fourth quarter to lead the Raiders to

their third straight win against a Bears team missing starting

quarterback Jay Cutler.

Hanie struggled in his first career start for the Bears (7-4) in

place of Cutler, who broke his right thumb last week in Chicago’s

fifth straight win to put a major obstacle into what had been a

promising season.

Hanie, who nearly led a comeback in last season’s NFC title

game, had thrown only 14 regular-season passes since signing as an

undrafted free agent in 2008 and looked like a career backup for

much of this game.

Hanie completed 18 of 35 passes for 254 yards and three

interceptions, including a crushing one late in the first half when

the Bears were deep in Oakland territory and on the verge of taking

the lead.

”I was a little antsy early on,” Hanie said. ”A little bit

too amped, I feel like. Just kind of felt a little pressure and

sailed it on him.”

But Hanie also threw two TD passes, including a 5-yarder to

Kellen Davis with 2:11 to play that cut the deficit to 25-20. That

was set up by an 81-yarder to Johnny Knox.

The game ended when Hanie botched a spike play with 4 seconds

left at his 46. Instead of immediately spiking the ball to stop the

clock, he took an extra step back and hesitated, leading to a

game-ending intentional grounding call.

”We should have won that football game based on the way our

offense played,” linebacker Brian Urlacher said. ”We didn’t play

well enough on defense. We gave up too many big plays, didn’t get

enough takeaways. That’s why we didn’t win.”

Bush was held to 69 yards on the ground by Chicago’s strong

defense and Palmer was sacked four times and threw an interception

as the Raiders missed injured big-play threats Darren McFadden,

Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore.

But they made up for it on special teams, headed by Janikowski

and Lechler. The Raiders did not shy away from the dangerous

Hester, holding him to 7 yards on two punt returns. He didn’t get a

chance on the 80-yarder as Lechler sailed it over his head once he

saw the returner creeping up too far.

”Those guys are game-changers,” Palmer said. ”There’s not

many punter-kicker combinations in the league … there can’t be a

better one.”

Hanie’s three first-half interceptions put the Bears in a 12-7

hole despite his 29-yard TD pass to Knox. The Bears had a chance to

take the lead when they drove to the 7 late in the first half.

Hanie attempted a throwback screen to Davis that was tipped by

Aaron Curry and went right to Kamerion Wimbley, who returned it 83

yards before being dragged down by a horse-collar tackle by Lance

Louis. Oakland settled for a 19-yard field goal.

”We knew coming into this game that he lacked experience, but

we knew that he could still make plays, as you saw in the Green Bay

title game last year,” Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt said.

”We knew he still had the ability to make us look bad and come out

of here with the W if we didn’t take care of business.”

Notes: Bush’s TD gave Oakland’s its first points in the fourth

quarter since Oct. 9 at Houston. … Knox had 278 total yards with

145 coming on his four catches and 133 on four kick returns.