Playing a football game in the snow for the first time Sunday at Soldier Field, Bears running back Jordan Howard looked as comfortable in the wintry conditions as a polar bear.
"It was kind of fun," Howard said after rushing for 117 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on 32 carries in a 26-6 win over the San Francisco 49ers. "It was pretty cold, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be."
Howard's TD runs of 1, 2 and 5 yards on three straight possessions spanning the second and third quarters turned a 6-0 deficit into a 21-6 lead. On his final score, the Alabama native kept his legs churning and bulled into the end zone.
"He's an impressive young man," said center Cody Whitehair. "He runs the ball hard, gets every inch, and even when the holes aren't there, he still makes stuff happen as you could see on the goal line. He did an outstanding job today."
Howard has now rushed for at least 100 yards in five games this season, tying Beattie Feathers (1934) and Rashaan Salaam (1995) for the most by a Bears rookie.
First victory: Quarterback Matt Barkley earned the first win of his NFL career in his second start, completing 11 of 18 passes for 192 yards and a 97.5 passer rating.
"It is special, and I think it's even more special just given the fact that this team needed a win," Barkley said. "So that's probably more special than mine, the fact that we needed to keep this momentum going and keep that mentality of always wanting to get better. It is special for me to get that, but hopefully it is the first of many wins."
After a slow start, Barkley completed 4 of 5 passes for 64 yards on a two-minute drill at the end of the first half that was capped by Howard's first TD, giving the Bears a 7-6 lead they never relinquished.
"We had to open it up some and throw the ball," said coach John Fox. "I thought [Barkley] executed outstanding. I thought that was one of our better drives that he had to manage."
Getting better: One week after dropping 10 passes in a loss to the Titans, the Bears collectively were much more sure-handed in far worse conditions Sunday.
Joshua Bellamy had another up-and-down day, however, catching a game-high four passes for a career-best 93 yards but dropping two more perfect throws from Barkley, one of which came on a deep post pattern that could have resulted in a 61-yard TD.
"I have great teammates," Bellamy said. "Once I dropped that ball, I came back to the sideline and [linebacker Christian Jones] just said to stay poised and stay focused, that it's going to come back and you're going to make more plays this game and that Matt will keep coming to you and coming to you."
Making strides: Rookie outside linebacker Leonard Floyd scored for the second time this season when he sacked Blaine Gabbert in the end zone for a safety late in the game.
In returning for the first time since suffering a concussion two weeks ago against the Giants, Floyd recorded two sacks to increase his season total to seven in nine games.
"One of my favorite things to watch is how [Floyd] wants it so bad," said defensive end Akiem Hicks. "Just his energy excites me because I remember how I was when I was a rookie, just champing at the bit, wanting to be in there on every frickin' play."
Floyd scored the Bears' only defensive touchdown of the season in a Week 7 loss in Green Bay with a strip/sack of Aaron Rodgers that the rookie recovered in the end zone.
Getting revenge: Rookie Ben Braunecker ran onto the field late to join the punt team in the second quarter, resulting in a delay of game penalty. He then got beat by Shaun Draughn, who blocked Pat O'Donnell's punt deep in Bears territory. Early in the 2014 season, Draughn got cut by the Bears after he allowed his man to block a punt against the 49ers.
News and notes: The Bears recorded their most points (26) and largest margin of victory (20 points) of the season Sunday. ... Fox said that Eric Kush started in place of Josh Sitton at left guard because Sitton's ankle was still "a little tender." ... Rookie third-round pick Jonathan Bullard was a healthy scratch. The Bears felt that Mitch Unrein was a better option. ... Receiver Marquess Wilson exited with a groin injury.