Rookie safety Eddie Jackson led a dominant defensive performance that carried the Bears to an impressive 17-3 win over the Carolina Panthers Sunday at Soldier Field.
In scoring the game's only two touchdowns, the fourth-round draft pick made history while also helping the Bears (3-4) record back-to-back victories for the first time since November 2015.
Jackson staked the Bears to a 14-0 second-quarter lead by returning a fumble 75 yards for a touchdown and bringing back an interception 76 yards for a score. In the process, he became the first player in NFL history with two defensive touchdowns of at least 75 yards in a game.
Jackson's two touchdowns were just part of a stellar outing by a Bears defense that generated three takeaways for the second straight week and compiled a season-high five sacks.
"I thought it was a really good team win," said coach John Fox. "It was a good football team that came to town, a team that had a lot of playoff experience and leadership on their football team. It's not always going to be perfect. You've got to give the other team some credit. But I thought as a football team we played well today and well enough to get a decisive win."
Follow the game from a different point of view as the Bears take on the Panthers at Soldier Field.
The Bears struggled on offense, mustering just one field goal on nine possessions while being held to five first downs, 153 total yards and an 18 percent success rate on third down (2 of 11). With the Bears protecting a 17-3 lead, the offense opened the second half with four straight three-and-outs and had as many complete passes (4) as sacks allowed (4) in the game.
Asked if he's ever won a game in which his team completed only four passes, Fox said: "I've seen a lot. I don't ever like to say I've seen it all because something new will happen. But I've been a part of those games. This is a team game. Sometimes it's going to be one-sided in one way or another. I've seen that before. But at the end of the day you have smiling faces in the locker room and they fought hard for that victory."
Jackson's first touchdown came on the game's opening possession. On first-and-10 from the Bears' 24, Cam Newton faked an inside handoff and pitched to receiver Curtis Samuel, who failed to secure the ball. Jackson scooped it up and raced down the left sideline to the end zone.
Jackson struck again early in the second quarter, swooping in to intercept a Newton pass intended for receiver Kelvin Benjamin that was broken up by Prince Amukamara. The ball caromed high into the air and was caught by Jackson, who deked Newton along the sideline.
"He's a tremendous young guy as well as a young player," Fox said of Jackson. "He showed those things to the coaching staff and to his teammates early and now you all get to see it."
After Graham Gano's 36-yard field goal drew the Panthers to within 14-3 with 3:18 left in the second quarter, Connor Barth answered with a 19-yarder to make it 17-3 with 1:06 remaining in the half. Barth's kick came on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1 and was set up by Mitchell Trubisky's 70-yard pass to running back Tarik Cohen.
Earlier in the half, Barth's 52-yard field goal attempt grazed the bottom of the crossbar after it was deflected at the line of scrimmage by Kawaan Short. The kick came one snap after Trubisky was sacked for a nine-yard loss on third-and-seven at the Carolina 25.
Trubisky completed 4 of 7 passes for 107 yards and a 101.8 passer rating in the game. Jordan Howard rushed for 65 yards on 21 carries.
After producing two touchdowns on two takeaways and four sacks in the first half, the Bears defense continued to excel in the second half. Eddie Goldman held Newton to a 1-yard gain on fourth-and-two and Danny Trevathan produced the third takeaway of the game with an interception of Newton midway through the fourth quarter.
"I believe we're all together right now," said outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. "We're playing at a high level. Everybody is being accountable and we're just going out and executing."