It's difficult to say that a single sequence was the turning point in the Bears' 45-28 victory Monday night, or that one play changed the momentum.
But it's not impossible.
Surprisingly, the critical juncture in the Bears' victory over the Dallas Cowboys involved a defense that has borne the brunt of criticism in a slump that saw the team lose three of its previous four games.
It took less than 90 seconds to turn the game's early ebb-and-flow into a tidal wave in favor of the 7-6 Bears, who kept their playoff hopes alive.
"I thought the big change in the game came when our defense made a stop late in the second quarter," coach Marc Trestman said, "and then we were able to get Alshon (Jeffrey) the ball late in the half to score."
The Bears probably would have been content to go into halftime with a 17-14 lead after Robbie Gould's 27-yard field goal just 1:33 before halftime. But, after Dez Bryant caught his second and last pass of the game for 10 yards, the Bears' defense forced 3 straight incomplete Tony Romo passes.
Devin Hester returned the Cowboys' punt 19 yards to the Bears' 40-yard line to keep the Bears' momentum going.
With just 47 seconds but all three of their timeouts remaining, Josh McCown went to work with 3 quick completions. That set up his perfectly placed long ball to Jeffery, who despite double coverage made yet another spectacular, leaping catch in a tiny corner of the end zone with 10 seconds to spare.
Eighteen more points to start the second half turned what had been a 14-14 game into a 42-14 blowout in just 17 minutes and nine seconds.
About seven minutes before the Bears began their avalanche of points, they got an early spark from McCown. This one didn't involve the quarterback's precision passing, which has now generated more than 300 yards in three straight starts. It's the first time in franchise history a Bears quarterback has been that prolific.
But the 34-year-old, 11-year veteran showed he still could make plays with his feet. McCown bolted from the pocket and sprinted seven yards up the middle before going airborne at the goal line as he hurdled Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee and safety J.J. Wilcox and flipped into the end zone.
"We always say to our quarterbacks, 'We want you to get down,'" Trestman said. "But every once in awhile a quarterback has got to do what he's got to do. And that's to find a way into the end zone. It was an excellent run."
Sliding would have been the safe way out, but it wouldn't have produced 6 points, and the Bears' offense has had its difficulties in the red zone and in short-yardage situations.
That all played into McCown's thinking as he approached the Dallas defenders. He also flashed back to the St. Louis Rams game, when he tried to do battle with a bigger defender.
"We joked about it on the sideline," McCown said. "I had to scramble against the Rams and tried to go head-up with one of their linebackers, and it didn't go too well. I thought maybe I could go through the air this time. I was able to get in the end zone.
"We've had our issues down there the last two weeks, and I just wanted to make sure we scored, and that's what it was all about."
McCown's recklessness resonated with his teammates.
"A run like that by your quarterback?" said left tackle Jermon Bushrod. "Him jumping into the end zone and getting flipped around a little bit? Getting up with a smile on his face? It just gets us going, man. If he can go lay it out there like that, then we have to lay it out there like that, too."
Oh, by the way, McCown also elevated his passer rating for the season to 109.8, third best in the NFL.
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