Fueled by a dominant running game and a stingy defense Sunday at Soldier Field, the Bears improved to 1-2 with a stunning 23-17 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pro Bowl running back Jordan Howard rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, including a game-winning 19-yard TD run with 8:27 remaining in overtime.
Howard's touchdown capped the Bears' first possession of overtime and came two plays after Tarik Cohen had apparently ended the game with a dazzling 73-yard TD run. But after a replay review it was determined that the rookie had stepped out of bounds at the Pittsburgh 37.
"I thought it was a tremendous effort," said coach John Fox. "Our guys worked hard all week. They're all hard weeks. It wasn't definitely how you draw them up, it wasn't perfect, but our guys hung in there and stuck together. It was great to come up with the win."
With Cohen adding 78 yards on 12 carries, the Bears rushed for 220 yards—exactly 200 more than they mustered in last Sunday's disappointing 29-7 loss to the Buccaneers in Tampa.
"It was a tribute to our guys up front," Fox said. "Jordan Howard ran the ball hard. Tarik had a good day. But it starts up front. I think we kind of stepped over ourselves a little bit in Tampa; our guys knew that, especially up front. That's kind of what we are and what we're going to be. You've got to show up every week. Our guys, I thought that they answered the bell up front."
Backed by an opportunistic defense, the Bears led 17-7 at halftime. But the offense committed two turnovers deep in Chicago territory and the Steelers converted the miscues into 10 points, trying the score 17-17 midway through the fourth quarter.
After Pittsburgh recovered a Howard fumble at the Bears' 16, Le'Veon Bell's 1-yard TD run cut the deficit to 17-14 midway through the third quarter. Mike Glennon's pass intended for Zach Miller was then intercepted by safety J.J. Wilcox at the Chicago 21, leading to Chris Boswell's game-tying field goal with 8:03 to play in regulation.
The Bears would have led 21-7 at halftime if not for a major blunder by Marcus Cooper Sr. On the final play of the first half, Sherrick McManis blocked Boswell's 35-yard field goal try. The ball bounced to Cooper, who had nothing but open field in front of him. But Cooper inexplicably slowed down—almost coming to a complete stop as he approached the end zone—which enabled the Steelers' Vance McDonald to catch him from behind and strip the ball at the 1.
Pittsburgh was penalized for batting the ball out of the end zone, giving the Bears one untimed down from inside the 1. But left tackle Charles Leno Jr., was flagged for a false start and the Bears settled for Connor Barth's 24-yard field goal.
"It ebbs and tides every game," Fox said of the momentum swings. "It's like life; it just happens. Our guys stuck together. There was never any stuff on the sideline. They just kept marching."
The Bears defense held Bell to 61 yards on 15 rushes and limited Ben Roethlisberger--who completed 22 of 39 passes for 235 yards--to an 82.7 passer rating.
After mustering only one takeaway in their first two games, the Bears generated two in the first quarter Sunday. First, McManis recovered a muffed punt by the Steelers' Eli Rogers at the Pittsburgh 29. That led to Howard's 3-yard touchdown run, which gave the Bears a 7-0 lead.
The defense then generated a second takeaway when Bryce Callahan sacked Roethlisberger on a blitz, forcing a fumble that Akiem Hicks recovered at the 50. But the Bears failed to capitalize on the turnover as Barth missed a 47-yard field goal attempt.
The Steelers tied the game 7-7 on Roethlisberger's 7-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant with 5:42 left in the first half.
Glennon's 2-yard touchdown pass to Adam Shaheen gave the Bears a 14-7 lead with :43 left in the first half. Howard rushed for 36 yards on four carries and Cohen had a 26-yard run on the nine-play, 75-yard drive. The TD was Shaheen's first NFL catch.
Operating a run-oriented attack, Glennon completed 15 of 22 passes for 101 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a 74.2 passer rating.
"It was seriously a great win," Glennon said. "Just finding a way to win against a really good football team is the goal every week. We found a way. It was a whirlwind of emotions, but I thought we handled it really well. At the end of the day, all that matters is that we won."