Bears win: Take Jets' gifts, get offense going, hold them off
EAST RUTHERFORD. N.J. -- The Jets were in a giving mood early on in Monday night's game, and the Bears were happy to accept.
Later, after the freebies ended, the Bears' offense got on track and made some of its own breaks, and their bend-but-don't-break defense came up with enough plays in the red zone to limit the Jets to field goals instead of touchdowns.
The end result was hard-fought 27-19 victory that left the Bears at 2-1 and the Jets at 1-2.
Robbie Gould's 45-yard field goal with 3:10 left gave the Bears their final margin, but the defense needed one more stop, and it wasn't easy. It looked as if the Bears would get it right away, but what appeared to be an easy interception for linebacker Jon Bostic trickled through his hands.
"I made the game a lot harder than it had to be," said Bostic, who was able to smile afterward. "I've got to get back on the Jugs machine."
Bostic was able to smile because he finished with a game-high 13 tackles, and the defense again won the turnover battle, coming out plus-2 to offset the Jets' 414-257 advantage in total yards. A week earlier a plus-4 advantage helped the Bears get past the 49ers.
After Bostic's muff, a short Geno Smith flip to Greg Salas picked up 51 yards through a discombobulated Chicago secondary and brought the Jets to the Bears' 20 with 1:41 left. Finally on fourth-and-5, the victory was clinched when Smith's pass to Jeremy Kerley was caught out of the end zone thanks to tight coverage by rookie safety Brock Vereen.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who struggled through a hot-and-cold first half, came out smoking after the second-half kickoff.
On the second play from scrimmage, Cutler feathered in a long, high-arcing sideline pass to Alshon Jeffery, who had a step on cornerback Antonio Allen. That picked up 43 yards and, on third-and-goal from the 13-yard line, Cutler connected with wide-open tight end Martellus Bennett, who took advantage of a blown coverage in the Jets' secondary to give the Bears a 24-13 lead with 11:28 left in the third quarter.
It was the second TD catch for Bennett, who leads the team with 20 receptions and is tied with Brandon Marshall for the team lead with 4 TDs.
"You've got two prime-time games, back-to-back, across the country," Bennett said. "We went to 'Cali,' then we came to New York. I thought this team prepared very well, and we didn't let the success of last week, the type of emotional game we had, affect our preparation this week."
The Jets were on the verge of cutting into the Bears' 11-point lead midway through the third quarter when Smith's ill-advised lob into the end zone was picked off by rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller, his third interception in two games.
It was Fuller's first game starting in place of injured two-time pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman.
The Jets came right back and had a third-and-goal from the 2-yard line, but defensive end Willie Young stuffed Smith for a 2-yard loss and the Jets settled for Nick Folk's 22-yard field goal and a 24-16 deficit with 27 seconds left in the third quarter. Folk's second 42-yard field goal on the Jets' next possession got them within 24-19, but they got no closer.
The Bears managed just 6 yards on their first two possessions, but they still held a 14-0 lead just five minutes and six seconds in.
On the second play from scrimmage, Smith hit Bears safety Ryan Mundy in the chest, and Mundy took the gift and went 45 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Bears lead just 32 seconds into the game.
The Bears went three-plays-and-punt for a net loss of 1 yard on their first possession, but Pat O'Donnell's punt was muffed by Jalen Saunders and recovered by Bears safety Ahmad Dixon. Dixon has been a Bear for just two weeks after he was signed off the Minnesota Vikings' practice squad Sept. 8.
The Bears immediately got the benefit of the doubt on a questionable pass-interference call and three plays later Cutler's dart found Bennett in the back of the end zone for a 14-0 lead.
It was enough for the Bears to hold on … barely. They did it with significant contributions from several rookies. In addition to Fuller, Vereen and O'Donnell, defensive tackles Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson played extensively and helped limit a strong Jets run game to 114 yards.
"Our coaches have done a great job of getting them ready and teaching them," Trestman said. "I guess maybe there's no better time to learn than 11 o'clock on Monday night."