CINCINNATI – It may not have been a perfect game. But when Bears players, coaches and fans close their eyes and dream about their team, they no doubt envision what transpired Sunday in Cincinnati.
Delivering their most complete performance of the season, the Bears dominated on both sides of the ball in a 33-7 rout of the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium, snapping a five-game losing streak.
"Today we came out and executed well as a football team in all three phases and we got to reap the benefits," said coach John Fox.
The Bears (4-9) held decisive advantages over the Bengals (5-8) in total yards (482-234), first downs (29-14) and time of possession (38:09-21:51) in recording their most lopsided win since a 51-20 victory over the Titans Nov. 4, 2012 in Tennessee.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky played his best game as a pro in his home state, completing 25 of 32 passes for 271 yards with one touchdown, no turnovers and a 112.4 passer rating. He also scored his first NFL TD on a 4-yard run on a read-option play.
Jordan Howard rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, while rookie Tarik Cohen added 80 yards on 12 attempts. Kendall Wright caught 10 passes for 147 yards and rookie Adam Shaheen had four receptions for 44 yards and one TD.
"We moved the ball with ease on them," Howard said. "We had them off balance. They didn't know if we were running or throwing, so it felt pretty good."
The injury-depleted Bears defense allowed the Bengals to advance inside the Chicago 25 on only one of 11 possessions. The unit was led by rookie safety Eddie Jackson, who recorded an interception and a second takeaway when he forced and recovered an A.J. Green fumble.
Among the defenders the Bears played without were Pernell McPhee, Leonard Floyd, Eddie Goldman, Willie Young, Mitch Unrein, Jerrell Freeman, Adrian Amos and Quintin Demps.
"This is a tough time of year," Fox said. "You get to the fourth quarter of a game or a season, you gut it up with who you have and our guys responded well."
The Bears scored a touchdown on their first possession of a game for the first time this season, taking a 6-0 lead on Howard's 21-yard run. It came one play after officials correctly ruled that Cohen had stepped out of bounds at the 21 on an apparent 35-yard TD run.
Veteran kicker Mike Nugent, who was signed last Monday to replace the injured Cairo Santos, missed the subsequent extra point-attempt, hitting the right upright.
The Bengals took a 7-6 lead on Andy Dalton's 14-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell with 2:15 left in the first quarter. The veteran receiver beat safety Deon Bush on a corner route.
The Bears followed by scoring the game's final 27 points, taking a 12-7 halftime lead on Nugent field goals of 34 and 27 yards. His first kick came after a penalty on right guard Tom Compton for an illegal block nullified Cohen's 15-yard TD reception on a screen pass.
Trubisky, who completed 17 of 23 passes for 170 yards in the first half, opened the second half with a 4-yard TD run, giving the Bears a 19-7 lead. The rookie quarterback connected on 4-of-4 passes for 57 yards on the nine-play, 57-yard drive.
Jackson then generated the game's only two takeaways on back-to-back possessions. First, the fourth-round pick intercepted a Dalton pass that deflected off Green. Jackson then ripped the ball out of Green's hands after a reception along the sideline and recovered the fumble.
The Bears converted both turnovers into fourth-quarter touchdowns on Trubisky's 1-yard pass to Shaheen and Howard's 8-yard run. The late scores put an exclamation point on the Bears' first win since Oct. 22 when they beat the Panthers 17-3 at Soldier Field.
"It's very rewarding," Wright said. "We lost a few that we should have won. But to get the win and to see some smiling faces, it was a good thing. Just to be happy on the trip back and not quiet, it's a good feeling."