At some point in the middle of the first quarter of the Bears’ 31-24 victory over the Cowboys, there is one thought that surely prevailed in the minds of Bears fans nationwide.
Aw, crap. This could be a long night.
As is my customary practice, I send out a pregame tweet declaring what I feel to be one or two of the most important things to watch, as well as what the Bears need to do to win.
This was what I tweeted before the Bears-Cowboys game:
The #Bears are going to have to control the clock on offense and get off the field on third down on defense. The more lopsided the time of possession is in favor of DAL, the tougher it’ll be to snag this victory. #DALvsCHI
— BearsBeat.com (@bearsbeat) December 6, 2019
The Cowboys drove 75 yards on 17 plays and chewed up just shy of 9 minutes of game clock on the opening possession of the game. They also converted four third downs on the drive. Ezekiel Elliott punched it into the endzone from two yards out to give the Cowboys an early 7-0 lead.
Needless to say, I was a little worried if the Bears could keep up.
Bears offense responds in kind
One thing the Bears have not done well this season is play consistent offense right out of the gate.
The Bears succeeded in that realm on Thursday night.
Mitch Trubisky led the Bears on a 8-play, 50-yard drive on their first offensive possession of the game. The drive ended when Trubisky’s pass — intended for I’m not even sure who — was picked off at the goal line.
At that point you could have thrown up your hands and expressed disgust at Trubisky. I’m sure many Bears fans did. Or, you could have taken the positive out of that drive and been encouraged by what you saw prior to the interception.
Trubisky completed his first three passes for 29 yards and also picked up two first downs with his legs. In short, he was making plays like Trubisky circa 2018.
Sleeping Bears defense wakes up
Following the Trubisky interception, the Bears’ defense rose to the occasion.
They forced two consecutive three-and-outs and then held the Cowboys to a would-be field goal on the drive after that — which kicker Brett Maher biffed wide right. (And you thought Eddy Pineiro was struggling.)
After that painfully long and methodical opening drive, the Bears’ defense held the Cowboys in check, allowing just 7 points and 132 yards of offense in the first half.
Trubisky rebounds from opening-drive interception and pumps energy into the offense
After his initial 8-play, 50-yard drive ended with a turnover, Trubisky showed no ill effects moving forward.
On their second offensive series of the game, Trubisky led the offense on a 6-play, 51-yard drive that culminated in a 5-yard touchdown pass to Allen Robinson to tie the game.
Kudos to head coach Matt Nagy on that drive for a perfectly drawn-up, opportunistic screen pass to tight end J.P. Holtz. Holtz had three blockers out in front of him but few defenders to even take on.
After a Cowboys punt, on the Bears’ third offensive possession of the game, the offense took advantage of good field position and drove 36 yards on 7 plays, setting up Pineiro for a 36-yard field goal and a 10-7 lead.
Finally, on the Bears’ fourth and final possession of the first half, the offense started at their own 32-yard-line and drove 68 yards on 14 plays, chewing up 4:50 of the clock. Trubisky capped off the drive with his second touchdown pass of the game, an 8-yard dart to Robinson, who simultaneously caught it with the defender and was awarded the score by rule.
That the Bears didn’t punt once in the entire first half is remarkable.
Bears pick up where they left off to start second half
The Bears have been very good at taking their first possession of the second half and scoring a touchdown, and that didn’t change on Thursday.
On the first possession of the third quarter, the offense resumed punching the Cowboys defense in the mouth. Trubisky drove the offense 84 yards on 11 plays while eating up 6:42 of game clock.
Trubisky tossed his third touchdown pass of the game, a quick screen to Anthony Miller, who sprinted 14 yards for the score, and a 24-7 Bears lead.
As cameras panned the Cowboys sideline, they looked defeated. Many of them looked like they wanted no part of the Bears for the rest of the half. But, they didn’t stop fighting.
Cowboys stiffen up, fight back
After the teams exchanged punts, the Bears were driving around midfield when David Montgomery had the ball stripped from his hands.
Now, it appeared that not only did Montgomery have his facemask yanked, but his forward progress looked stopped as well. Either way, he has to hold onto the ball.
The Cowboys capitalized off that turnover and drove 54 yards on 9 plays to score a touchdown and reduce their deficit to 10 points, 24-14.
But Maher continued to struggle, sending the ensuing kickoff out of bounds and giving the Bears advantageous field position. Three plays later, Trubisky scored on a 23-yard run, his fourth total touchdown of the game.
Either the Cowboys’ defense came to life, or the Bears’ offense let its foot off the gas because that was the last score of the game for the Bears.
Dallas punched in a touchdown during garbage time, and tacked on a field goal late. But an onside kick attempt failed and the Bears secured the victory.
Bears thoroughly stomped the Cowboys
Don’t let the score of the game fool you. After the Cowboys’ opening drive touchdown and Trubisky’s first possession interception, this game was pretty much all Bears.
The line of scrimmage — which was supposed to be dominated by Dallas — belonged to the Bears. Trubisky systematically picked apart the Cowboys’ secondary, and Montgomery had a nice game on the ground as well.
What was most impressive about this performance, besides Trubisky’s four touchdowns, was how consistently tough the team played throughout. Yes, Dallas jumped out to an early start. And yes, they tried to claw their way back into the game at the end. But the Bears never broke. They kept fighting, even as they lost bodies to injuries.
Bears’ “playoffs” continue
Before the game, I wrote a post outlining how the Bears essentially were in a four-game playoff stretch. Yes, the actual postseason outlook is bleak. The Bears need to win out and have a lot of help along the way.
But what is more exciting than thrashing a playoff contender in prime time? The Bears gave you a playoff-like atmosphere Thursday night. I sure hope you enjoyed it.
The pseudo “playoffs” continue next week against division rival Green Bay. It’ll have every last feeling of a playoff game to it as well. And the Bears need to treat it as such.
I’m not sure how this season is going to play out — I’m no prognosticator. But that’s really not the point, is it?
Don’t focus on the destination of these last three games. Immerse yourself in the journey.