Weather leaves field slippery


Published: Monday, January 22, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 22, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

CHICAGO — Soldier Field's new sod was no match for the elements.

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The Associated Press

With snow and freezing rain during Sunday's NFC Championship game, it was no surprise that the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints had trouble staying upright — and hanging on to the ball.

The Chicago Parks District re-sodded the middle of the field before the regular-season finale against Green Bay, with the edges done before last week's playoff game against Seattle.

The first indication of trouble during Chicago's 39-14 victory was when the Saints' Marques Colston slipped trying to catch a pass that Drew Brees threw behind him early in the game. The rookie receiver slipped again when Brees tried to find him on a deep pass over the middle on New Orleans' first possession of the second quarter.

He wasn't the only one having difficulty keeping his footing.

Chicago's Cedric Benson slipped after taking a handoff on the second play of the second quarter, resulting in a 3-yard loss. Cornerback Charles Tillman got beat at the line and slipped on Colston's 13-yard touchdown reception that pulled New Orleans within 16-7.

The Saints fumbled three times in the first half and lost two, leading to field goals for the Bears, and were fortunate the other didn't lead to a score. The Saints had a third down at the Chicago 41 when Mark Anderson delivered a blind-side sack on Brees. The ball popped out and rolled all the way to the New Orleans 34 before Jahri Evans recovered it.

The Bears recovered their lone fumble in the half.

One-man drive

With a 9-0 lead midway through the second quarter, Thomas Jones scored the game's first touchdown on the Bears' longest run of the season.

One pass play notwithstanding, Jones sat out the previous three possessions before Chicago started an eight-play, 69-yard touchdown drive with just under six minutes left in the first half. The Bears handed off to Jones each time, starting with a 14-yard run up the middle, and two plays later he broke off a 33-yarder that put the ball on the New Orleans 20. Both he and Cedric Benson had 30-yard runs during the regular season.

Not quite

The Saints came up short in their bid to become the sixth team to go from last in their division to the Super Bowl.

Cincinnati did it twice, going from 6-10 to 12-4 in 1981 and from 4-11 to 12-4 in 1988. St. Louis jumped from 4-12 to 13-3 in 1999, New England went 11-5 in 2001 after going 5-11, and Carolina went from 7-9 to 11-5 in 2003.

The Saints fell one win shy of the championship game after going 3-13 a year ago.

You've been served

New Orleans reserve linebacker Danny Clark was served papers in a paternity lawsuit involving a Chicago-area woman after the Saints arrived at their hotel for Sunday's NFC Championship game.

Clark, who was served by a private investigator while getting into a sport utility vehicle outside the team's downtown hotel Saturday night, wasn't immediately available for comment before the game.

Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said the team was aware of the lawsuit but the team had no comment. The story was first reported in Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times.

Clark grew up in the Chicago area and played in college for Illinois.

Alisha L. Pate, claims Clark is the father of her son, Alijah Danny Clark, said the woman's attorney, Bernard Rinella.

Rinella said Alijah was born three weeks ago and that Clark's arrival in Illinois on Saturday was the first occasion to serve him. Pate has stopped working to raise her son, Rinella said.

"It was perfect timing," Rinella said. "We're doing this for the child."

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