CHICAGO -- Passing, scrambling, working the clock when there was little of it left, there was no way Mark Brunell would let the Jacksonville Jaguars lose.
Brunell went 8-for-9 in an 87-yard game-winning drive Sunday as Jacksonville rallied to beat the Chicago Bears 24-23. Brunell threw for 73 yards on the drive, hitting Jimmy Smith with a 4-yard TD pass with 29 seconds left.
Brunell finished the game 22-for-35 for 207 yards and two touchdowns.
It was the third straight victory on opening day for Jacksonville, touted in the preseason as a Super Bowl contender. It was just the third time in 15 years Chicago has lost an opener, though the Bears came close to an upset thanks to Curtis Enis.
The fifth overall pick in the draft, who sat out almost all of training camp in an acrimonious holdout, rushed for 77 yards on 12 carries and set up two late scores.
The Bears missed a chance to wrap up the game on their last scoring drive. Enis brought Chicago to the Jacksonville 32 with runs of 14 and 13 yards, and Erik Kramer connected with Bobby Engram on a 21-yard pass to the Jaguars 4. But Chicago stalled and settled for Jeff Jaeger's 19-yard field goal to make it 23-17 with 4:08 left.
It wasn't enough. Starting at his 13, Brunell got Jacksonville going, although Jimmy Smith fumbled on a short reception, but recovered.Brunell completed the next three passes to get to Chicago's 37.
Brunell dropped the snap on the next play, but picked it up and scrambled for 8 yards and a first down. A 15-yard pass to McCardell moved the ball to the 6.
After James Stewart rushed for 2 yards, Brunell hit Smith to win it.
Smith caught nine passes for 90 yards, and McCardell caught seven for 72 yards. Stewart rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
Kramer, who missed almost the entire week of practice with a sprained toe, was 16-of-27 for 189 yards. Edgar Bennett rushed for 30 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries.
The Bears, expected to finish at the bottom of the league, caught the Jaguars -- and their own fans -- by surprise early. They forced three fumbles in the first half and converted them into two field goals for a 13-7 halftime lead.
They also had the most bizarre play of the game. After Jacksonville scored it's only touchdown of the half, Glyn Milburn caught the kickoff at his 12 and took off up the middle with a clear path to the end zone.
Kicker Mike Hollis tried to upend him at Jacksonville's 40, and as Milburn hurdled over him, it looked as if his right foot clipped Hollis' shoulder. Milburn tumbled to the ground and rolled over. The Jaguars thought he was down, and Milburn got up and sprinted all the way to the end zone as the Jaguars milled about in the middle of the field. Chicago players rushed onto the field, and special teams coach Keith Armstrong ran into the end zone to congratulate Milburn.
The officials ruled Milburn was never down, and the 88-yard run stood, giving the Bears a 10-7 lead.
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