Impressive performances by rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and a stingy defense led the Bears to a decisive 20-3 win over the Cleveland Browns Sunday at snowy Soldier Field.
Trubisky took another positive step in his development, making plays with his arm and legs. The second pick in the draft completed 14 of 23 passes for 193 yards with no turnovers and an 87.8 passer rating and also rushed for 44 yards and one touchdown on seven carries.
"This game is only fun when you win, whether it's you guys, fans, coaches or players," coach John Fox told reporters. "So it always feels good to win. It was good to see those smiles in the locker room. It was a big win for everybody here."
The defense did not allow a touchdown for the fourth time this season and generated three takeaways, helping the Bears improve to 5-10 with one game remaining. The Browns fell to 0-15 and are in jeopardy of joining the 2008 Lions as the only 0-16 teams in NFL history.
"This is our last home game of the season," said outside linebacker Sam Acho. "The fans have stuck with us through thick and thin. We wanted to come out and make a statement, a lasting memory. We got a chance to get the win, which was awesome. And then to hear the fans cheering, throwing snowballs, it was just a blast."
The key point in Sunday's game came early in the second half. With the Bears leading 6-3, Trubisky's pass was intercepted by Browns defensive end Myles Garrett and returned 37 yards to the Chicago 5. But the play was nullified by an offside penalty on linebacker Carl Nassib.
The Bears capitalized on the break as Jordan Howard capped a four-play, 60-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown run that increased their lead to 13-3 with 12:23 left in the third quarter.
"The line did a great job," Howard said. "I got inside and they [blocked] the linebacker. I saw the corner come in too far and the receiver sealed him off, so I was able to bounce it outside."
After the Browns went three-and-out, Trubisky gave the Bears a 20-3 lead with a four-yard touchdown run on a quarterback draw up the middle. The rookie, who completed 6 of 6 passes for 62 yards on the drive, was hit at the 1 but powered into the end zone.
The Bears defense then protected the lead by generating two takeaways. Danny Trevathan stripped the ball from receiver Rashard Higgins at the Chicago 3 after a 17-yard reception and Prince Amukamara recovered the fumble in the end zone. Bryce Callahan later thwarted another drive by intercepting a DeShone Kizer pass with 4:11 left in the game.
Kizer completed 18 of 36 passes for 182 yards, two interceptions and a 41.7 passer rating.
The Bears defense was led by Kyle Fuller, who continued his resurgent season with another stellar outing. Fuller recorded one interception and six pass breakups while limiting Browns star receiver Josh Gordon to two catches for 19 yards on a game-high eight targets.
The Bears scored the game's first points on Howard's 2-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter but led only 6-0 because Mike Nugent's extra-point attempt was deflected by Nassib.
The Browns closed the gap to 6-3 on Zane Gonzalez's 48-yard field goal with :01 remaining in the half. The kick came one play after Kizer completed a 35-yard pass over the middle to receiver Ricardo Louis to the Bears' 30.
Trubisky showed his athleticism in the first half, rushing for 40 yards on six carries. But the rookie quarterback was also sacked three times on Browns blitzes.
The Bears finally beat a Cleveland blitz early in the third quarter as Benny Cunningham turned a screen pass into a 40-yard gain, setting up Howard's 16-yard TD run on the next play. On the Bears' next possession, Cunningham's 22-yard gain on another screen led to Trubisky's TD run.
"They have a really good pressure package," Trubisky said. "They get to the quarterback really well and disguise it really well on the back end. That's what we wanted to do, just offset it with the screens. We hit them with a couple of big ones, and that was big for us. We just have to keep using that, and keep the defense on their heels the best we can."