CANTON, Ohio Two Bears rookies stole the show from Ricky Williams.
Oh, sure, the crowd paid a little more attention when Williams was in the game. But his return performance in the NFL was short and ineffective. The real excitement was provided by Kyle Orton and Mark Bradley as they rallied Chicago to a 27-24 victory in the Hall of Fame game Monday night.
Orton brought a breath of fresh air to the often-stale Bears offense when he riddled Miami’s third-string defense on two late touchdown drives.
‘‘It was a lot of fun and a big confidence builder,’’ Orton said. ‘‘It was a big comeback.’’
The fourth-round draft pick from Purdue connected with Carl Ford for a 43-yard score with 7:23 remaining. After Olindo Mare was short on a 54-yard field goal try, Orton guided Chicago 56 yards, keyed by a 34-yard bullet to Eddie Berlin and a third-down interference penalty by Miami’s Deandre Eiland.
Zack Abron ran it in from the 4, disappointing all the Dolphins fans wearing No. 13 jerseys in the crowd of 22,292. One day earlier, former Miami quarterback Dan Marino was inducted into the Hall, along with Steve Young, Fritz Pollard and Benny Friedman.
Orton’s strong outing 7-for-11 for 175 yards and Bradley’s Hall of Fame game record 131 yards on five receptions spoiled the debut of Nick Saban as an NFL coach and Williams’ return to the Miami lineup. Williams had 8 yards on five rushes and downplayed his role.
‘‘I didn’t feel rusty,’’ he said. ‘‘I didn’t expect anything, to be honest. I was like always when I play, it takes me a while to get warmed up. But I was seeing everything good and I felt good.
‘‘I honestly felt I didn’t have anything to get over with. To me, it was just another day. I was playing again.’’
Saban, who left LSU after a highly successful career in college to rebuild the Dolphins, didn’t get much from Williams. Indeed, there was nothing much reminiscent of the Marino days for the team coming off a 4-12 record, its first losing season since 1988.
Williams entered on Miami’s second series and had a 2-yard run. He had another 2-yard run and gained 2 yards on a swing pass on which he stumbled during the next possession.
In the second period, Williams had runs of 3, 2 and minus-1. That was it for the former rushing king, who will sit out the first four games of the regular season under an NFL suspension for violating the substance abuse policy.
‘‘The big thing was being on the sidelines with my teammates,’’ he said. ‘‘It felt like I had never been away.’’
With the play of Bradley, a second-round pick from Oklahoma, and Orton, the Bears didn’t miss running back Cedric Benson, their first-rounder who is holding out.
‘‘It was great that we did get this win and the record just came in the flow of the game,’’ Bradley said.
Another rookie QB, the Dolphins’ Brock Berlin, marched his team to the 15 before being intercepted in the end zone by Jerrell Pippens in the final moments.
After a very slow start, the Dolphins put together a couple of scoring drives in the second quarter. Gus Frerotte, who replaced A.J. Feeley late in the opening period when Feeley sustained a contusion of the buttocks, threw to Bryan Gilmore at the goal line. Gilmore had to turn almost completely around to snag the pass, falling into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown.
‘‘It’s funny,’’ Frerotte said. ‘‘I wasn’t really throwing to him. It just kind of slipped off my hand and floated that way and he made a great catch.’’
That made it 10-7 Mare had a 33-yard field goal earlier in the quarter.
Chicago got a nice effort from its starting offense and defense in the first period. Thomas Jones rushed for 47 yards on 10 carries, with a 1-yard TD run. That was set up by a 34-yard pass from Rex Grossman to Muhsin Muhammad, the prize free agent receiver the Bears signed in the offseason.
‘‘I think this offense fits our personnel,’’ Jones said, ‘‘because we’re a hard-nosed offense. I thought we were pretty efficient.’’
Especially at the end.
Nick Novak kicked a 22-yard field goal, and Doug Brien made a 30-yarder to lift Chicago within 17-13, but Jason Glenn picked off a poor pass by Orton and ran it 26 yards for a TD with 10:30 remaining.
Orton bounced back with a beautiful 43-yard spiral to Ford, and then put together the winning drive.
‘‘I was ticked off,’’ Orton said of the interception. ‘‘That one was on me. I wanted to get back on the field and make up for it. We did.’’
Notes: Miami defensive end David Bowens twisted his left ankle, and Bears fullback Keith Belton hurt his left ankle in the first half. ... Miami also was without its first-round pick, running back Ronnie Brown of Auburn, who is a holdout. ... The Bears are 4-0 in the HOF game, while Miami is 0-3.
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