Roquan Smith intercepted Davis Mills with 1:05 remaining in the fourth quarter to set up a game-winning 30-yard field goal by Cairo Santos as time expired as the Bears (2-1) defeated the Texans (0-2-1) 23-20 Sunday at Soldier Field.
"I'm excited about the victory," coach Matt Eberflus said. "That was a hard-fought battle to the very end. What I told the guys at halftime, I just said, 'hey, guys, we're built for this; we have mental and physical stamina. We are built for the second half.' And the guys did a great job of executing what they needed to in the second half of this game. Coming up with obviously the big interception at the end to seal the deal, and then the kick by Cairo to to get the win. That's the biggest takeaway for us, is just being resilient."
The Bears jumped out to a 10-0 lead to start the game. Santos made a 47-yarder on the Bears' first possession then Khalil Herbert rushed for an 11-yard touchdown on the following drive.
Houston fought back with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Mills to Jordan Akins and a 1-yard touchdown run by Dameon Pierce to take a 14-13 lead at halftime. In the second half, Herbert rushed for another touchdown while the Texans a pair of field goals in the second half to tie things up at 20-20.
Herbert led the Bears offense with a career-high 157 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns, with the Bears totaling 281 rushing yards. Herbert came in after David Montgomery injured his lower right leg on the second Bears' second drive. Following the game, Eberflus told reporters Montgomery is day-to-day and said "it's a positive for sure."
Quarterback Justin Fields completed 8 of 17 passes for 106 yards while throwing two interceptions. Fields said he has to get better at "a lot of things," but was most upset about his two interceptions as they're "stuff that [he] can control."
"I didn't play as well as I wanted to," Fields said. "Like I always say, I have higher expectations than everyone else. I just have to play better for my teammates. I'm just proud of the defense, how they played. I'm proud of everybody on the team. Of course, wanted to play better, but it's just everybody in the locker room fighting for each other."
Mills completed 20 of 32 passes for 245 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Pierce led the Houston rushing attack with 20 carries for 80 yards and a score.
The Bears took a 3-0 lead after Santos kicked a 47-yard field goal on the opening drive of the game. Fields sustained the drive on 3rd and 9 by scrambling out of the pocket for a 29-yard rush – the longest of his career – to reach the Houston 35.
Herbert's 11-yard score on the Bears' second possession extended the Chicago lead to 10-0 with 6:45 remaining in the first quarter. The 6-play, 81-yard drive began with a 41-yard run from receiver Equanimeous St. Brown after he received the handoff on a jet sweep. After replacing Montgomery, Herbert rushed 30 yards on three carries throughout the drive.
"That was no surprise," Fields said. "We know what kind of player [Herbert] is. He's a great running back. He's an even greater person. I'm proud of him today, proud of the way he ran the ball, proud of the way our offensive line blocked for him, just proud."
On the Texans' next drive, Mills' 4-yard touchdown pass to Akins cut the Bears' lead to 10-7 with 3:40 left in the first quarter. Mills' 52-yard deep ball to Chris Moore brought the Texans to the Chicago 20. On the following play, safety Eddie Jackson forced a fumble, but Texans guard A.J. Cann recovered the ball, saving the drive.
With 2:54 left in the first quarter, Fields was intercepted by Jalen Pitre at the Chicago 41 after overthrowing tight end Cole Kmet down the middle of the field. Mills brought the Texans down to the 5 with a 17-yard pass to Brandin Cooks followed by a 19-yard completion to Nico Collins.
The Bears defense then came up big on 2nd-and-goal from the 7 as cornerback Kindle Vildor deflected Mills' pass intended for Cooks in the end zone. Jackson hauled in the tipped throw, notching his second interception of the season.
"Eddie Jackson, the one interception by them and then we answered with our interception in the end zone, what a great job there," Eberflus said. "He also forced [a] fumble; we thought he performed really well. The defense performed really well in those sudden change moments. When you get the ball on the minus field there, we always talk about rising up, and forcing them to a field goal or blocking it."
The Texans took a 14-10 lead after Pierce's 1-yard rushing touchdown with 7:32 left in the first half. Following Desmond King II's 30-yard punt return, Pierce carried the ball four straight times, accounting for all 41 yards on the drive.
With 1:48 to go in the first half, Santos hit a 50-yard field goal to close the deficit to 14-13. The Bears' 12-play, 50-yard drive was highlighted by Fields' 24-yard completion on 3rd and 9 to Kmet, his first catch of the season. The Bears reached the 23, but Fields was sacked for a loss of 9 yards on 3rd and 6, bringing in the field goal unit.
On the opening drive of the second half, Ka'imi Fairbairn kicked a 39-yard field goal to increase the Texans' lead to 17-13. Mills completed a 12-yard pass to Pierce then a 25-yard pass to Akins to reach the Bears 38. On 3rd and 8, the Bears defense stopped Pharaoh Brown 2 yards short of the sticks to bring up fourth down.
The Bears quickly fired back and regained a 20-17 lead on Herbert's 1-yard rushing touchdown with 8:25 left in the third quarter. Herbert opened the 5-play, 75-yard drive with a 52-yard run down the left sideline. Fields then found St. Brown for a 20-yard gain to reach the 3, before Herbert reached the end zone on his third straight carry.
Houston tied the game at 20-20 on Fairbairn's 23-yard field goal with 54 seconds left in the third quarter. The Texans drove 70 yards on 14 plays and reached the 2, but on 3rd and 1, linebackers Roquan Smith and Joe Thomas stopped Pierce's run, forcing the field goal unit to come out. The Bears defense stopped the Texans on 3rd and 1 to earlier in the drive, but the Texans' executed a fake punt to get the first down.
On the Bears' next drive, Pitre picked Fields off for the second time on an overthrown deep ball intended for receiver Darnell Mooney. Pitre intercepted the ball at the Houston 40 and returned it to the Chicago 39. However, the Bears defense forced a three-and-out as tackle Justin Jones sacked Mills for a loss of 8 on 2nd and 6 and linebacker Nicholas Morrow tackled Brown for a loss of 5 on 3rd and 14.
With 1:05 remaining in the game, Mills dropped back to throw on 3rd and 1. Defensive lineman Angelo Blackson tipped the throw before Roquan Smith hauled it in for the interception, returning it to the Texans 12. Santos hit the 30-yard field goal as the clock hit 0:00 to give the Bears the win.
"The play at the end of the game with Blackson tipping it and Roquan having the focus and concentration to be able to look that ball all the way in," Eberflus said. "When it's below your waist, that's a hard catch because the ground comes into your vision, and you have to look all the way in. We worked on that, and he did a great job of focusing it in and taking us in to set us up for the game-winning field goal."
See the Week 3 action unfold from behind the lens as the Bears take on the Texans at Soldier Field.