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Extra Points

Extra Points: Jackson, Gipson gain redemption in win

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Taking a look back at the key performers and moments from the Bears' 20-17 win over the Bengals in Sunday's home opener at Soldier Field:

Turning Point

With the Bears protecting a narrow 7-3 lead midway through the third quarter, Eddie Jackson stripped the ball from receiver Tee Higgins and Tashaun Gipson Sr. scooped up the fumble and returned it 13 yards to the Bengals' 39. The Bears converted the turnover into Cairo Santos' 28-yard field goal, increasing their lead to 10-3. It was the first of four straight takeaways by the defense, which rebounded from a disappointing performance a week earlier in a 34-14 season-opening loss to the Rams.

The play also provided redemption for Jackson and Gipson, veteran safeties who made uncharacteristic mental mistakes in the Week 1 loss.

"That was tough for us, tough for everybody," Gipson said. "As a professional athlete, you've got to look yourself in the mirror and that is just unacceptable for us, specifically on the back end. We wanted to come out here and right our wrongs. I'd be lying if I said that wasn't in the back of our mind. There was a lot of tension in the building, especially on the DBs. We knew we had to come out here and play one of our best games. It was a feel-good kind of day for us."

Player of the Game

Linebacker Roquan Smith led the Bears with eight tackles, recorded one of the defense's four sacks and scored his first NFL touchdown on a 53-yard interception return of a Joe Burrow pass early in the fourth quarter.

"Best linebacker in the game, and I tell him that," Gipson said. "I've been saying that since last year. He's just a phenomenal player. He can run like a DB, hit like a linebacker. He can cover like a DB. I don't have enough good things to say about Roquan. I'm just happy that he's on my team."

Smith became the first Bears linebacker to return an interception of at least 50 yards since Oct. 1, 2012 when Lance Briggs picked off Tony Romo and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown in a 34-18 win over the Cowboys.

Streak buster

Burrow hadn't thrown an interception in his last four starts, with his last pick coming last Oct. 25 in a loss to the Browns. But in the fourth quarter Sunday, the second-year pro had three straight passes intercepted by the Bears—by Smith, cornerback Jaylon Johnson and defensive lineman Angelo Blackson.

Déjà vu all over again

All three times they've opened their home schedule against the Bengals, the Bears have recorded three-point victories: 17-14 in 1989, 24-21 in 2013 and 20-17 in 2021.

Trending in the right direction

The Bears have now won nine straight games against AFC North opponents. They swept the Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Steelers in both 2013 and 2017. In 2017, they defeated the Steelers 23-17 in overtime and Browns 20-3 at home and the Ravens 27-24 in overtime and Bengals 33-7 on the road … The Bears improved to 10-3 in September games in coach Matt Nagy's four seasons, including 3-1 in home openers … Santos made both of his field-goal attempts from 28 and 22 yards, extending his Bears record streak to 29 consecutive field goals.

Opposing viewpoint

Burrow on contending with a Bears defense that generated four takeaways and four sacks: "They had a good pass rush, so we tried to get it out quick and they knew that they had a good pass rush and we were going to get it out quick, so they just started sitting on all of our routes."

Where we stand

With Sunday's win, the Bears moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC North with a 1-1 record—if only for a day. The winner of Monday night's game between the Lions (0-1) and Packers (0-1) in Green Bay will tie the Bears atop the division. The Vikings are 0-2.

Check out the best 40 photos–taken by Bears photographers–from Sunday's home-opening victory over the Bengals at Soldier Field.

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