Healthier Bears look to ease painful memory
Rested after a much-needed bye, the Chicago Bears had some time to heal over the weekend. Good thing for them. They're a little healthier now after absorbing their share of bumps and bruises in the early going as they head to Atlanta, the site of one of their most painful losses a year ago. Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa appears ready to go after tearing the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the opener against Green Bay. So does receiver Devin Hester after leaving the previous game against Detroit with a strained muscle in his neck, although middle linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer sat out practice on Monday with a rib injury that sidelined him against the Lions. So the bye came at a good time even if the Bears (3-1) had won three in a row. Now they'll try to ease that lingering sting from last year's loss at Atlanta, one of several that saw them blow leads and ultimately helped cost them a playoff spot. The Bears had gone ahead with 11 seconds left after Kyle Orton found Rashied Davis in the corner of the end zone and Robbie Gould kicked the extra point. Then, in a flash, the Falcons erupted in a playoff-like celebration after Jason Elam's field goal gave them a 22-20 victory. "We still talk about it, 11 seconds on the clock and how we lost that game," Hester said Monday. "On this Sunday, we don't want to have that feeling again when we walk off the field." The loss to the Falcons wasn't the first or last bitter one for the Bears, who blew late leads while falling to Carolina and Tampa Bay on back-to-back weekends earlier that season. Against the Panthers, they were up by 14 before going down and they couldn't close out the Buccaneers. In that one, they let a 10-point advantage slip away in the final six minutues and fell by three in overtime, and the season ended in the final week after the Bears blew another lead against Houston. They needed to beat the Texans to make the playoffs and appeared to be on their way after scoring the first 10 points. Instead, they fell out of the postseason for the second straight year, losing by seven to finish 9-7, but that Atlanta loss still sticks out. "What happened last year? It's about this year," coach Lovie Smith said. Here's a refresher. After the touchdown catch by Davis, the Bears decided to go for a pooch kick rather than boot it deep. Harry Douglas returned it 10 yards to the Atlanta 44, and Matt Ryan, showing the poise of a veteran, threw a perfect 26-yard pass to Michael Jenkins along the left sideline. The receiver got his feet down and fell out of bounds with 1 second left before Elam booted the winning 48 yarder, the ball clearing the crossbar with plenty of room to spare. "With 11 seconds in the game, I'd love to have the lead again," defensive end Alex Brown said. "I'll take our chances. They made a great play. I think Tommie (Harris) was hanging all over him when he made the throw." He also credited Elam. "Their kicker made a heck of a kick," Brown said. "They did some great things at the end of that game. They made the plays they needed to make to win." When he looks at the video, Brown said the motivation will be education and not revenge. He wants to see how the Falcons stopped him, what he could have done better. "I want to see how (left tackle) Sam Baker blocked me, how he approached that game, and I want to see what I can do to try to beat him this time," Brown said. "I know they'll change some things, but that's what I want to see. I want to see the schemes that they ran last year." And he wants to see a different result.