Two of the NFL's best defenses traded quick jabs and roundhouse punches on a wet and sloppy Sunday night at Soldier Field, but ultimately only one contender was left standing.
In what was hyped by some as a possible Super Bowl preview between 7-1 foes, the Texans edged the Bears 13-6 in a hard-fought defensive struggle, snapping Chicago's six-game winning streak.
|The Bears' defense held the Texans potent offense to 215 total yards Sunday night at Soldier Field.|
The Bears held the Texans to their lowest point total of the season, generated two takeaways on a pair of Tim Jennings' interceptions and permitted only 215 yards to a potent Houston offense that had been averaging 371.8 yards per game.
But the Bears committed four turnovers—all in the first half—lost quarterback Jay Cutler to a concussion late in the second quarter and failed to score a touchdown for the first time this season.
The only TD of the game came on Matt Schaub's two-yard pass to running back Arian Foster, giving the Texans a 10-3 lead with 4:14 remaining in the second quarter.
Robbie Gould's 24-yard field goal drew the Bears to within 10-6 late in the third quarter, but the Texans answered on Shayne Graham's 42-yard field goal with 4:49 left in the fourth period.
With their first loss since Sept. 13 in Green Bay, the Bears (7-2) saw their lead atop the NFC North shrink to one game over the Packers (6-3), who had their bye this weekend.
The Bears offense struggled from the outset Sunday night. The unit committed turnovers on its first three possessions and added a fourth late in the second quarter as Cutler threw two interceptions and tight end Kellen Davis and running back Michael Bush lost fumbles.
"When you play a good football team like the Texans, you have to get off to a fast start and you just can't make some of the mistakes we made early on," said coach Lovie Smith. "If we're minus-two on turnover ratio, it's not going to be a good day for us, and that was the case today."
The Texans only managed to convert one of the four turnovers into points. But Houston rushed for 112 yards in the first half as Foster gained 85 of his game-high 102 yards.
"Defensively, we couldn't stop the run," Smith said "You just can't let them run the ball at times the way they did the first half. In the second half I thought we played better gap control and tackled better, also which gave us an opportunity. But we were beaten by a good football team. You have to give the Texans a lot of credit for that."
The game's pivotal play occurred late in the first half. With the Bears trailing 10-3, Cutler stepped up in the pocket and connected with Devin Hester for an apparent 42-yard gain to the Houston 8.
Cutler was penalized for crossing the line of scrimmage, but that wasn't the worst part of the play. The Bears quarterback took a vicious helmet-to-helmet shot from linebacker Tim Dobbins an instant after releasing the ball, drawing a flag that resulted in offsetting penalties.
Cutler finished the half, but developed concussion symptoms at halftime and did not return. He exited after completing 7 of 14 passes for 40 yards with two interceptions and a 16.7 passer rating.
Backup Jason Campbell played the entire second half, connecting on 11 of 19 passes for 94 yards and a 70.9 rating. His 45-yard pass to Brandon Marshall set up Gould's field goal.
The Bears did not allow a sack in the game, but struggled moving the ball on the ground with Matt Forte rushing for only 39 yards on 16 carries with a long run of just eight yards.
Steady rain fell throughout the game, contributing to the offense's sloppy performance. The Bears committed four turnovers in one half for the first time this season and were also hurt by dropped passes and costly penalties.
"The weather dictated a little bit what type of football game it would be," Smith said. "We needed to be able to run the football, and when we had opportunities with the pass we needed to hit them.
"A night like tonight you can't turn the ball over. You have to have great ball security, and when you get your opportunities take advantage of them. Those turnovers really hurt us tonight."