CHICAGO – The final month of their season arrived on Thursday night with the home team having simple goals.
The Bears and the majority of the fan base aren’t really interested in talking playoffs since that would likely take four consecutive wins to make a reality. That hasn’t happened all season long, and even in wins in 2019, the performances haven’t exactly been pretty.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it doesn’t inspire confidence that the Bears could run the table against four teams still in the thick of the NFC playoff race.
All those taking the field for Matt Nagy’s team or watching from the stands at Soldier Field on a relatively mild December night were hoping for a just solid effort all around and a win over the NFC East-leading Cowboys. It would keep some interest in the group as they head to Green Bay to face the Packers in ten days.
For the most part, those goals were accomplished on a positive and pleasant Thursday night at Soldier Field.
Even after giving up a long touchdown drive to start the game and a turnover on their first offensive possession, the Bears used their offense to race out to a 17-point halftime lead. The Cowboys kept it from being a blowout and scored ten late points, but the home team stayed in control throughout in a 31-24 victory at Soldier Field Thursday night.
The victory puts the Bears over the .500 mark for the first time since mid-October as they improve to 7-6 on the season. They pull within a game-and-a-half of the Vikings for the last NFC Wild Card spot and two-and-a-half games in back of the Packers for the NFC North lead with three games to play. Nagy takes his team to Lambeau Field next week for a contest that has a little more significance thanks to a strong effort Thursday night.
Mitchell Trubisky had his third-consecutive strong start, and got the job done with his arm and his legs. Trubisky shook off a first quarter interception to finish 23-of-31 for 244 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 64 yards rushing and a touchdown to help the Bears to tie their highest point output of the season.
What’s odd is that things couldn’t have started worse for the Bears, as their first two possessions went the way of the visitors.
The Cowboys had the NFL’s longest drive of the season in plays (17) and time (8:57) to start the game as Ezekiel Elliott completed the march with a short touchdown to make it 7-0. On top of that, Roquan Smith suffered a pectoral injury on the touchdown play that kept him out of the rest of the game and could land him on injured reserve.
After the Bears drove into the Dallas red zone, Trubisky had an errant throw near the pylon intercepted on a tip-toe catch by Jourdan Lewis to end the drive.
Like the Detroit game, only much earlier, the quarterback responded well the rest of the half after an interception. When the Bears got the ball back, the went 51 yards in six plays, with Trubisky completing the drive with a touchdown pass to Allen Robinson to tie the game at seven.
The Bears would get in the redzone again on their next drive but had to settle with an Eddy Pineiro 36-yard field goal to grab their first lead of the game. Following a missed field goal by the Cowboys, the Bears would go the distance on their final drive of the half, going 68 yards to paydirt. Robinson wrestled a pass away from Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith for his second score of the evening to make it 17-7 at the break.
Once again, the Bears started the second half fast, getting on the board on a Trubisky touchdown pass to Anthony Miller in which the receiver did most of the work picking up 17-yards for the score. Dallas capitalized on a third quarter fumble by David Montgomery to reach the end zone on another short score from Elliott on fourth down to cut the lead to 24-14.
Using his legs, Trubisky got that back on the next drive, weaving his way through the Dallas’ defense for a 23-yard rushing touchdown to make it 31-14.
The defense, which had the Cowboys struggling most of the evening, did yield ten points down the stretch as Dallas got the lead down to seven points in the closing seconds. It made the final score seem much closer than the game really was, as the Bears enjoyed a pleasant evening under the national spotlight.