On a frigid night at Soldier Field that featured the retirement of Mike Ditka’s jersey number, the Chicago Bears were red-hot on offense in a 45-28 rout of the Dallas Cowboys
The Bears matched the 7-6 record of the first-place Lions in the NFC North with the victory. The Lions own the tie-breaker by virtue of their sweep of the Bears this season.
Josh McCown (27-for-36, 348 yards) threw four touchdown passes and ran for another one in the game that started with a wind-chill factor of minus-9.
Matt Forte rushed 20 times for 102 yards.
The Cowboys fell to 7-6.
With Ditka providing emotional fuel at halftime, the Bears blew the game open in the second half.
Robbie Gould’s 23-yard field goal was the icing on the cake, putting the Bears ahead 45-21 with 3:51 to play. It was the Bears’ eighth possession and the eighth time they scored.
Michael Bush took a McCown toss and romped 17 yards into the end zone with 14:24 left in the fourth quarter to give the Bears a resounding 42-14 lead.
A nine-yard pass from Tony Romo to Cole Beasley trimmed the bulge to 42-21 with 10:52 left.
Forte’s 5-yard touchdown reception with 5:53 to play in the third quarter and a subsequent two-point conversion catch by Brandon Marshall boosted the Bears’ lead to 35-14.
Robbie Gould’s 34-yard field goal on the opening drive of the third quarter increasd the Bears’ lead to 27-14.
An acrobatic end-zone catch by Alshon Jeffery from 25 yards out gave the Bears a 24-14 lead with 17 seconds left in the first half and that was the score at intermission.
Gould’s 27-yard field goal gave the Bears a 17-14 lead with 1:33 left before halftime.
The Cowboys put together another long march, culminating with a 10-yard TD pass from Romo to tight end Jason Witten to tie the game at 14-14. The drive went 68 yards in 7 plays.
The Bears took their first lead of the game when McCown rushed seven yards on a third-and-goal play to make it 14-7. The 10-play drive covered 65 yards and was capped when McCown hurtled his body into a Cowboys defender at the goal line with 8:58 left until halftime.
The Bears capped a 78-yard drive with a 4-yard TD pass from McCown to Earl Bennett with 1:35 left in the first quarter to pull even at 7-7 as the wind chill factor slipped to minus 9 degrees.
The Cowboys took a 7-0 lead on a 2-yard pass from Romo to Dez Bryant with 9:02 left in the first quarter. The drive covered 75 yards in 12 plays and featured 52 yards rushing on six carries by DeMarco Murray.
Entering with a 6-6 record, the Bears’ playoff hopes were alive after the NFC North-leading Lions lost to the Eagles on Sunday to fall to 7-6. The Lions hold the tie-breaker on the Bears after beating them twice this season. The Packers (6-6-1) also are looming as Aaron Rodgers’ return from injury is anticipated.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys (7-5) have NFC playoff aspirations of their own as they try to hang with NFC East-leading Philadelphia.
As all of the possible postseason scenarios played out, a national audience watched Bears icon Ditka have his No. 89 jersey retired during ceremonies at halftime.
“It’s been a heck of a run, guys,” an emotional Dikta said. “One thing I’ve learned: This is a heck of a city. … I’ve been living the dream for 74 years.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you … and GO BEARS!”