The Bears rallied to beat the Broncos 16-14 Sunday in Denver on Eddy Piñeiro's 53-yard field goal as time expired. Here are three things that stood out in the game:
(1) The Bears offense continued to struggle, but the unit produced a huge play when it was needed most to set up Piñeiro’s winning kick.
The Bears finally scored their first touchdown of the season on their 19th possession of the year as rookie running back David Montgomery extended the ball over the goal line on a 1-yard run late in the third quarter.
The offense was much more balanced in Denver than it was in a Week 1 loss to the Packers. But the passing game once again failed to produce chunk plays. Before the Bears’ final possession, Mitchell Trubisky's longest completion was an 18-yarder to tight end Ben Braunecker and the quarterback’s longest pass play to a wide receiver was an 11-yarder to Taylor Gabriel.
But that all changed on the Bears’ final offensive play of the game when Trubisky stepped up in the pocket and hit receiver Allen Robinson II over the middle for 25 yards to the Broncos’ 36, setting up Pineiro’s winning kick.
“The biggest part to me is you go through a game like we went through offensively and they stuck together and they did what they had to do at the end to win the game,” coach Matt Nagy said Monday at Halas Hall.
Robinson’s catch came after the Broncos had rallied to take a 14-13 lead as Joe Flacco connected with receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a 7-yard touchdown and the subsequent two-point conversion pass with :31 to play.
“[Sunday] was a pure example of the defense having a great game and doing really well and kind of losing a little momentum,” Nagy said. “They get the touchdown and the two-point conversion, and easily everyone could have just folded up and said, ‘That’s it.’ But the offense made plays when needed and got us in a position to win the game.”
(2) The accuracy, leg strength and swagger that helped Piñeiro win the Bears’ kicking job all were evident on his game-winning kick.
“He has that effort and mentality,” said linebacker Danny Trevathan. “He doesn’t care what’s in front of him. It’s tough being a kicker, especially for the Chicago Bears. But he goes out there, executes and has fun. He takes on a challenge and doesn’t run from it.”
Piñeiro made all three field goals he attempted Sunday, hitting from 40 and 52 yards before nailing the game-winner.
“It starts in practice and it carries into the game,” Piñeiro said. “I had a really good practice this week and I had a really confident feeling that I was going to have a good game.”
Nagy likes that Piñeiro possesses a “swag” that’s uncommon for a kicker.
“That’s a little different for a kicker and it’s good because that’s confidence,” Nagy said. “We’re on the plane last night and I’m just talking to him and he’s just [saying], ‘Thank you again for these opportunities.’ It's just simple things like that that go a long way. The players love him and he’s got that swag. That’s who we are as a team.”
(3) The Bears defense played well for three quarters, but the unit tired in the fourth period and allowed the Broncos to erase a 13-3 deficit.
When the Bears increased their lead to 13-3 on Montgomery’s TD run late in the third quarter, it appeared it was a reasonably safe margin. After all, the Bears defense had not allowed a touchdown and had forced the Broncos to punt on five straight possessions beginning midway through the first quarter.
But Denver drove deep into Bears territory on its final three possessions, producing a field goal that made it 13-6 with 13:37 left in the fourth quarter followed by a touchdown and two-point conversion that gave the Broncos their first lead of the game at 14-13 with :31 remaining.
“There were some times there that they were tired,” Nagy said. “Even at the end, you saw Khalil [Mack] come out on the fourth down and so I just wanted to call a timeout. I felt like it was more important for him to be out there on that fourth down. He was tired. Those guys, you could feel it.”
The defense wore down at the end in part because the temperature was near 90 degrees, the mile-high elevation in Denver and a Bears offense that wasn’t stringing together any time-consuming drives.
“You don’t want that breakdown at the end,” Mack said. “Altitude is a real thing. At the end of the day, I don’t care how you get the ‘W.’ It was a hard win. I’ll take it.”