Game Recap: Bears Roll Cowboys, Move Into a Tie for First

GIF via SBNation (@SBNationgif)

GIF via SBNation (@SBNationgif)

Well, that’s more like it. The Bears took it to the Cowboys on national television, (always a fun combination) winning 45-28 and moving into a tie with Detroit atop the NFC North. Josh McCown played a very strong game, finishing 27/36 for 348 yards, 4 touchdowns passing, and 1 touchdown rushing. He didn’t throw a pick, but three separate passes should have been intercepted; two were dropped by Cowboy defenders, and a third was intercepted, but wiped out by a defensive holding call. Matt Forte ran for 102 yards, while also catching 7 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown.

Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery both had big games. Marshall had 6 catches for 100 yards, including a few huge third-down conversions to keep scoring drives alive. Jeffery had 5 catches for 84 yards and another ridiculous, highlight-reel grab (as GIFd here.) He also made an amazing grab down the left sideline. The Bears never punted, finishing the game 8-11 on third down conversions, and they scored on every drive save for a final kneeldown to close out the game.

It wasn’t all rosy for the Bears. As we’ve come to expect, the defense was porous, especially against the run. They tied an NFL record when they allowed DeMarco Murray to crack the 100-yard barrier, becoming only the second team to allow a 100-yard rusher in 6 consecutive games. In total they allowed 198 yards on the ground, which is obviously an issue. They made up for it by sacking Tony Romo twice while holding Dallas to just 144 yards passing.

The Bears played a much cleaner game than they had in recent weeks; they were turnover free (despite McCown’s three near-picks) and were only whistled for two penalties. Dallas didn’t turn the ball over either, but their defense literally could not get off the field without allowing points. As I noted in my “Three Things” post, those stops became key, as the Cowboys offense had zero margin for error thanks to their defensive woes. (Here I’ll note that my other two keys, involving taking the over (line was 48 points) and both Forte and Murray would rush for 100 yards (102/145 respectively) came to fruition. I’m wrong so often, I hope you won’t begrudge me this slight moment of self-satisfaction.)

Some other notes on the win:

  • Marc Trestman had an outstanding game. Aside from a stretch in the third quarter when the Bears got a bit pass happy, the playcalling was on point throughout. Two of the three near-interceptions happened on that drive, and following the second close call Trestman called for runs on 8 of the next 11 plays as the offense marched down the field for a touchdown.
  • That amazing play by Jeffery was set up by a refreshingly aggressive decision from Trestman. Leading 17-14, they forced a Dallas punt. The Bears took over at their own 40 with 47 seconds left and all 3 timeouts remaining. They were slated to get the ball again following halftime, but Trestman decided to step on the gas; that led to two first downs as the Bears reached the Dallas 25. From there, they took a shot at the end zone, and Alshon was able to haul in yet another ridiculously awesome catch. Following halftime, they drove for a field-goal, taking full advantage of their back-to-back possessions to extend their lead by ten. Some great clock and game management from Trestman, after a week of being raked over the coals for his decision-making. As I said last week, the good has far outweighed the bad for Trestman’s first season in Chicago; the play of Josh McCown being the most visible example.
  • The offensive line had a very good game, allowing just one sack and opening numerous holes for Matt Forte and a surprisingly resurgent Michael Bush (who ran for 38 yards on just 8 carries.) Kyle Long and Jordan Mills reached the second level on multiple plays to deliver blocks that sprang ball-carriers for extra yards.
  • I thought Mel Tucker had a decent game as well; the run defense is what it is due to injury-ravaged personnel, so Tucker has been forced to try some different things. The Bears ran some fairly exotic blitzes (a few zone blitz schemes that were rare under Lovie) and they pressured Romo often. The biggest came as the Cowboys were attempting to convert 4th and 9, down three scores in the third quarter. It was still a game at that point, and Dallas was in Bear territory, but James Anderson came free on a blitz and Romo was forced to throw it into the ground, resulting in a turnover on downs. The Bears scored a touchdown three plays later, extending the lead to 28 points and putting the game effectively out of reach. (No idea why Romo threw it into the ground on 4th and 9, though. If you’re ever going to toss one up for grabs, that’s the play. Credit the pressure.)
  • Recent signing Jeremiah Ratliff started at defensive tackle, and recorded one of the two Bears sacks.
  • Despite the frigid, windy conditions, Robbie Gould was 3/3 on field goal attempts. That was good to see, as he seemed to take last week’s loss very hard. I wasn’t really worried about the effects lingering, but I’m happy he bounced back.
  • The Bears gave the game ball to Mike Ditka, who was on hand to see his jersey retired. (He fired up the crowd with a solid halftime speech. I was ready to hit somebody in my basement.)

Thanks to everyone who joined me on Twitter, and to everyone who might be checking out the site for the first time. I’ll be back tomorrow with a closer look at the NFC North playoff picture with three weeks remaining. I also hope to look back at a few more key plays from tonight’s game at some point this week.

The Bears are back atop the division, and they have a very real shot at the playoffs.

That’s pretty cool.

Jay Rigdon is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation Bears, and can also be found @BearsBN on Twitter.

29 responses to “Game Recap: Bears Roll Cowboys, Move Into a Tie for First”

  1. FarmerTanColin

    Over/under on how many picks we use on defense in the next draft?I’m going to start the party at 5.

    Injuries are a killer! Dreaming on if Briggs and Melton couple play.

    Also I hate to admit this but…I traded Jeffery for Bryce Brown before the season started in a dynasty league….what a regret!

  2. J.F.Edwards

    “(No idea why Romo threw it into the ground on 4th and 9, though. If you’re ever going to toss one up for grabs, that’s the play. Credit the pressure.)”

    I think Romo is a panicker. He has the talent (within and around him) to play at a high level occasionally, but not consistently. And sometimes he just doesn’t know the situation. I think he’s overwhelmed at times.

  3. jmc

    with the short week Cutler should sit out

    1. Patrick W.

      How does the short week affect Cutler?

  4. Mark Prior Officially Calls It a Career and Other Bullets | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary

    […] the Bears! They won big over the Cowboys last night, tying them atop the division. Jay has you covered if you want to follow a Chicago team that’s kinda-sorta doing all right. […]

  5. #1lahairfan

    Happy to get a win the backs of our receivers.

  6. On The Farm

    Well, maybe I should just concede defeat more often with the Bears. Before the game started I was pretty certain that Murray was going for 100, that defense just has too many holes. Some how the D managed to stop the Cowboys (or maybe the Cowboys stopped themselves).

    The Browns are next which makes me nervous. The Bears have a good shot at not setting the new record for 100 yard rushers. But, Josh Gordon is establishing himself as one of the best WRs in the league (the best 13th round pick I will ever have again). Browns have won a lot more games than I thought they would this year, so who knows what will happen next week.

    1. Jon

      The Bears D didn’t stop the cowboys, the offense just kept the ball away.

  7. #1lahairfan

    We better be going DL or LB in the first round this year.

  8. Adam

    Great game called by Trestman. Pushed all the right buttons. If only he could have stopped my beer from freezing.

  9. Kyle

    This offseason is so amazing it can make a guy like McCown look good.

    Although we clearly need some defensive depth, in today’s NFL, defense barely matters. I would love to see us double-down and get some more offensive help this offseason. Things we could use: One more OL, a speedy slot receiver, a second quality TE. And maybe it wouldn’t hurt to be thinking RB at some point, because even Forte can’t last forever.

    1. Kyle

      *offense, not offseason

    2. On The Farm

      I agree with grabbing another OL (guard opposite of Long?), Slot WR, and another RB -I view getting a backup RB as a rather high priority really. We could definitely use another quality TE, but I would put it at #4 on my wish list for offense behind the first three I listed.

      1. Toby

        Bears could grab a G in the later rounds. Remember that Kromer, when he was with NO, was very good at developing later round guards into Pro Bowlers. It’s almost a certainty that Emery will use first 3-4 picks on defense. Bears might also be better served to trade down in the first, maybe 2nd round, and acquire more picks. I’m not saying that they won’t draft in those rounds, but if the Bears are in a position to move back a few slots while getting additional picks then they should considering all the holes that will need filling.

        1. On The Farm

          I would be all for it if a team is desperate enough to trade for their first round pick if they can pick up sufficient quantity to address more needs.

          1. Toby

            Look at the trade in last year’s draft between New England and Minnesota so the Vikings could draft WR Cordarrelle Patterson. Minnesota traded the #52, 83, 102, and 229 picks to move back into the first round. History shows that players slide to the late first round and this is the type of trade that Bears need to make in next year’s draft.

    3. On The Farm

      For what it’s worth, I found a site that had the Bears drafting DE, RB, TE, OT with their first four picks. Not that it really means anything of who they picked. I would just agree that those are four big needs and while they will probably not draft like that, I would bet those four positions end up being addressed in the draft.

      1. Jon

        Why draft a RB in the first four rounds when you can find a FA off the street to come in and produce?

        1. On The Farm

          Don’t they still have another year (at least) of Bush? It would be a cheaper alternative to draft a RB when you already have Forte and Bush, and then you can use the FA money on that awful defense.

      2. Ed

        I think they’re biggest needs in this order are FS, SS, DL (both DE and DT), C, P, LB.

        1. On The Farm

          That LB core is thin. I would think it needs to be up, especially before punter.

          1. Ed

            With a healthy Briggs and hopefully they re-sign D.J. Williams (which I doubt), they should be ok with drafting an lb in the late rounds. We have one of the worst punters in the league and hes not getting any younger that needs to be addressed asap.

  10. On The Farm

    Jay (or anyone else)-

    I am curious as to what are your thoughts on Bostic and Greene? Bostic sometimes looks like he could be a pretty solid player, but sometimes I think Greene just looks really lost on defense. LBs to me seem to be hard to judge since I think the only ones that can really play as rookies are 1st rounders, maybe 2nd rounder, so I try not to be too hard on the both of them.

  11. Jon

    The old saying is, at this point in the season, they aren’t rookies anymore. Greene looks like a bust. he has no business on a football field. Bostic isn’t much better and he’s regressing. Maybe he can play Briggs position someday, but I don’t know.

  12. Ed

    Hopefully next year the Bears move Mills to guard to Long to tackle and draft a center… Man, I wish they drafted Barrett Jones.

  13. Matt

    I’ve been a Cutler supporter for a while now, but I gotta say, the more McCown plays like this, the more it seems like McCown + a rookie QB + an extra, what, $10 million? seems like a better deal than Cutler. An extra $10 million could help fix a lot of holes on the defensive side.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Cutler plays at the end of this year.

    1. Cubs_Questions

      McCown has played great. But as Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall are tearing teams apart and thinning out secondaries, I find myself incredibly excited to see what Jay Cutler can do with these guys at this point in the season. Jeffery is on fire right now.