The Bears defenders had trouble stopping the New York Jets. But this time, Chicago’s offense picked them up.
The Bears defenders had trouble stopping the New York Jets.
But this time, Chicago’s offense picked them up.
"That’s why it’s a team sport; it’s the ultimate team sport. We need each other," defensive end Julius Peppers said after the Bears’ 38-34 win Sunday. "We’ve got to lean on each other sometimes. Today was one of those days."
The Bears defense, ranked eighth overall and third in points allowed headed in, surrendered 24 first-half points. After jumping out to a 10-0 lead, the Bears fell behind 21-10 before a third-quarter surge turned things around.
With three touchdown passes from Jay Cutler in the third, Chicago (11-4) found a way to pull out the improbable shootout win despite allowing 393 yards on defense.
"I don’t think anyone would have predicted a game like that with two outstanding defenses. You never know; each game takes on its own personality," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said. "You just have to be ready to go… We look at it as this is playoff football already. You have to finish the game, and our guys did that."
Things didn’t look good for the Bears early on, however.
Dwight Lowery intercepted Cutler at the 20-yard-line and then strolled into the end zone to give New York its first lead, 14-10 in the second quarter. A few minutes later, the Bears, who once led 10-0, trailed 21-10.
But things turned around just as quickly for the Bears.
"Now everything is starting to come together. The guys are really picking it up," said Cutler, who passed for 215 yards and a 104.2 passer rating. "Once we settled down, the offensive line played exceptional all game long and gave me a lot of time, and the receivers made some plays for us.
"So right now, it’s just fun out there."
Cutler’s two-yard TD run late in the first half got the comeback rolling. He was then 6-for-7 for 113 yards with three touchdowns in the third quarter. After logging a 43.2 passer rating in the first half, Cutler’s effort equaled a perfect 158.33 QB rating in the third.
"When Cutler is hot," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said, "he’s as good as there is."
A dropped pass on a Jets’ fake punt to start the second half helped turn the tide with the Bears down seven. Cutler threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Knox on the next play to tie the score at 24, and the Bears never trailed again.
"We just kept on it. They weren’t stopping us; we were stopping ourselves. We just stuck with it," Bears guard Roberto Garza said. "We kept our heads down and worked it. Jay Cutler and the receivers stuck it out, too, and they really started making plays."
Cutler put the Bears ahead with a 25-yard TD pass to Devin Hester and, again, at 38-31 with a 26-yard pass to Knox (four catches for 92 yards). Matt Forte (113 yards rushing, 56 receiving) helped the Bears keep that lead.
But the Jets (10-5) still had a chance to tie it or take the lead late. That’s when the Bears defense clamped down. Chicago safety Chris Harris locked in on his career-best fifth interception of the season with the Jets driving with under a minute to play, and the Bears are now one win away from a first-round playoff bye.
"That was a great football game," Lovie Smith said. "Now, we control whether we get that bye or not."
And now the Bears defense knows it can rely on the offense when it really has to.
Bears reporter Jay Taft can be reached at 815-987-1384 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bears report card
Passing offense: A-
After a rocky start, Jay Cutler (13-for-25 for 215 yards with three TDs and one INT) and the Bears passing attack came around; and in a big way. A stretch of nine straight passes in the second and third quarter turned a seven-point deficit into a 38-31 lead. Wideouts Johnny Knox (92 yards and two TDs) and Devin Hester (48 yards and a TD) stepped up.
Rushing offense: B
Matt Forte rushed for 113 yards with a 5.9-yards-per-carry average, and the Bears had seven first downs on the ground. The Bears picked up three short-yardage third-down conversions with the running game as well.
Passing defense: B-
Mark Sanchez (24-for-37 for 269 yards) finished with decent numbers, but had just one TD pass and one interception, and failed to convert late when his team needed it the most. Chris Harris’ pick with under a minute to go sealed the game.
Rushing defense: C
Jets’ rushers combined for 124 yards and two TDs, but they were held out of the end zone in the second half, and did little damage late.
Special teams: A-
Hester had one of his nicest returns of the season on a 38-yard sprint with two nice cutbacks that handed the Bears decent field position early in the third quarter. He caught a TD pass about two minutes later to kick-start the comeback. Though Robbie Gould missed a 34-yard field goal, the rest of the special teamers picked him up.
Lovie Smith and his staff outcoached Rex Ryan and his. Ryan called for a fake punt that came back to haunt him, and instead of going for it, he punted the ball back to the Bears with his team driving, the ball on the Bears-34 and under six minutes left to play. Chicago’s offense finished off the Jets from there. Smith made no glaring mistakes Sunday.
Though the defense underachieved a bit in this one, the offense had its back throughout. It was a different kind of win for the Bears, but a big one at that.