Bears defense dominates to help Fields secure 20-17 win after he steps in for hurt Dalton
Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols, Eddie Jackson, Tashaun Gipson, Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn and the rest of the Bears' defense had a long time to think about how poorly they played in a 34-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams last week.
It stung after the game in the locker room. It hurt on the trip to the airport. And it burned many of them up during a middle-of-the-night plane ride back to Chicago.
"Taking that long trip, getting back in at 5 a.m. after getting beat like that -- it sits with you differently," Hicks said. "Not only are you tired, but you just got done getting whooped. That sat tough with everybody."
A week later -- with chips firmly on their shoulders -- Hicks and Co. completely dominated the Cincinnati Bengals in a 20-17 victory at Soldier Field on Sunday. Roquan Smith, Jaylon Johnson and Angelo Blackson picked off 3 straight Joe Burrow passes during a wild stretch in the fourth quarter that allowed the Bears (1-1) to extend a 10-3 lead to 20-3.
"I'm so proud of them," coach Matt Nagy said of the defense. "They took it personal. They were a little bit pissed off with how it went last week. ...
"And when you're a good football player and you get pissed off, you normally come back and play pretty well. That's what they did."
Smith, who also had a sack and a tackle for loss, returned his interception 53 yards to make it 17-3 with 10:55 remaining. The only turnover he made was handing the ball to a fan in the end zone.
"I wish I would have kept it, but I'm sure it made his year," Smith said. "I'll just keep the jersey and I'll keep the memory. I'm sure the guy that got the ball, I'm sure he's filled with joy. If I can make his day, I'm fine with that."
Said Gipson: "He's the best linebacker in the game. And I tell him that. Having a guy like that makes it easy."
Johnson then picked off a pass intended for Tee Higgins on Cincinnati's next possession, and Blackson latched onto yet another INT after the ball was tipped by Alec Ogletree.
On a hot, humid day that meant a lot of celebrations in a short period of time -- no easy feat for the 352-pound, 30-year-old Hicks.
"That was wild to me," he said. "To have all those plays in succession was like, 'How is this happening?' That's a lot of yards to run to celebrate."
The Bengals had just 14 first downs, were 6 of 12 on third down and were held to 106 passing yards through three quarters. Stud running back Joe Mixon was also held in check, picking up 69 yards on 20 carries.
The victory didn't come without some concerns, however. To wit:
• The defense committed two dumb 15-yard penalties that allowed Bengals drives to continue. The first was on Gipson; the second on Robert Quinn for hitting Burrow out of bounds.
• David Montgomery (61 yards on 20 carries) had little room to run.
• Andy Dalton sat out the second half with a knee injury, forcing Justin Fields into full-time duty. The rookie QB showed flashes, but he also threw a late interception that allowed the Bengals to make it 20-17 with 3:39 remaining.
At that point, it was nail-biting time for the 60,000-plus in attendance, but Fields iced the victory with a 10-yard run on third-and-9 from his own 26. Fields completed 6 of 13 passes for 60 yards and added 31 rushing yards on 10 carries.
Darnell Mooney led the receivers with 6 catches for 66 yards.
Next up are the Browns, who have perhaps the best offensive line in the league and are considered one of the favorites in the AFC. It will no doubt be a stiff challenge, but one the Bears just might be up for based on what we saw Sunday.
"Now you need to see if you can be consistent next week," Quinn said. "That's how you get judged if you can be consistent. It's fun to get the win, but on to next week."