Chicago Bears beat Bengals in dominant fashion
Finally, at long last, in Week 14, the Chicago Bears put it all together.
Their 33-7 victory over the Bengals in Cincinnati was dominant, as they improved to 4-9 while dropping the home team to 5-8. More important, the Bears' rout was led by a bevy of young players who will be instrumental if the coming rebuilding project is to succeed.
The Bears' victory snapped a five-game losing streak and provided vindication for a young team that deserved some positive reinforcement for the unrequited hard work it's put in, according to coach John Fox.
"It's good to see them experience the results of their hard work," Fox said. "That's gratifying as a coach. What's been frustrating for me and the coaches is, a lot of us have had our day in the sun, but (it's difficult) to see young guys come in and work hard and not reap those benefits."
Rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky, in his ninth pro start, took a giant step in his development. He completed a career-best 25 passes on 32 attempts for 271 yards, 1 touchdown, no interceptions and a 112.4 passer rating.
"He's put a lot into it, and our coaches have done a great job preparing him," Fox said of Trubisky, 3-6 as a starter. "There's always a couple of those young moments, but you saw some growth (today). I've seen growth every week he's gone out there, and I've been impressed because he works at it very, very hard. There's a lot that goes into it, and it's good to see them (all) experience some success."
Second-year running back Jordan Howard rushed for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns on 23 carries, giving him 1,032 yards, as he became the first player in franchise history to surpass 1,000 yards in his first two seasons.
Wide receiver Kendall Wright (10 catches, 107 yards) had by far his best game of the season, and second-round rookie tight end Adam Shaheen had a breakout game with 4 catches for 44 yards and a touchdown. Fourth-round rookie running back Tarik Cohen added 80 yards on 12 carries.
Defense contributed as well. Rookie safety Eddie Jackson picked off a deflected Andy Dalton pass in the third quarter, ending the Cincinnati quarterback's streak of 192 passes without an interception. Then, early in the fourth quarter, the fourth-round pick from Alabama ripped the ball away from perennial Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green and recovered the fumble.
Cornerback Kyle Fuller continued his resurgence by keeping Green under wraps most of the day. According to Pro Football Focus, Fuller was targeted nine times and allowed just 3 catches for 14 yards.
With 4:54 left in the third quarter, Trubisky ran four yards untouched on a zone-read keeper that gave the Bears a 19-7 lead. By that point, the Bears already had rolled up more total yardage than in their previous two games combined.
Looking nothing like the pathetic offense that was held to fewer than 150 yards in each of the past two games, the Bears rolled up 256 yards in the first half. The key, according to Trubisky, was looking ahead, not back at the losing streak.
"We really just focused on today," he said. "We put the past behind us. We weren't going to dwell on the past and what we didn't do.
"We had a great week of practice, and I feel like that just trickled throughout the week, the positive energy. The guys just came together and we were able to make a lot of plays."
Trubisky completed 17 of 23 passes for 170 yards in the first half, and Howard ran 11 times for 63 yards. The Bears came into the game averaging an NFL-worst 275.8 yards per game.
For the first time in more than a year, the Bears scored a touchdown on their opening drive of the game, drawing first blood on a 21-yard run by Howard. The Bears hadn't reached the end zone with an opening possession since Nov. 20, 2016.
Howard and Cohen led a ground game that produced a season-best 232 yards and 3 touchdowns on 38 carries for a 6.1-yard average.
"It starts up front," Fox said. "Not taking anything away from any of the skill guys, but whether it's pass protection or run blocking, that all starts and finishes up front. I thought our front had a good day. I thought Jordan did, too. He ran pretty violent and ran pretty angry.
"When he does that you see the results."
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