Clutch performances in all three phases lifted the Bears to a hard-fought 20-19 win over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers Thursday night at Soldier Field.
With the Bears trailing 19-17, Nick Foles completed passes of 10 yards to Anthony Miller on third-and-nine and 17 yards to David Montgomery, putting Cairo Santos in position to drill a go-ahead 38-yard field goal with 1:13 remaining.
The Buccaneers followed by reaching their own 41, but the Bears defense clinched the victory when backup safety DeAndre Houston-Carson broke up Brady's pass intended for tight end Cameron Brate on fourth-and-six with :33 to play. Houston-Carson was pressed into action on defense because reserve safeties Deon Bush and Sherrick McManis both were inactive due to injuries.
"They're not always the prettiest of wins, but I look to end the game with our defense having an opportunity to shut down possibly the greatest quarterback to ever play this game with 1:13 to go down one point," said coach Matt Nagy. "And then to come through with that, that's a huge win."
In defeating Brady for the first time in six meetings, the Bears improved to 4-1. They still have room for improvement, but Nagy is pleased with his team's record.
"The best part about all this that I'm super-excited with our players and our coaches is that we're 4-1, and we know we can play a lot better," Nagy said.
"We've been resilient with how we've come through in different situations. I said it a few weeks ago: There's something special about this team. We find ways to win. It's not always pretty; we totally understand that. But this is a big win for us."
Foles missed some throws early, failing to connect on a deep pass to Darnell Mooney and overshooting Allen Robinson II on a short throw on third-and-two that should have resulted in an easy completion for a first down.
But the veteran quarterback rebounded to rifle a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham late in the first half before engineering two critical fourth-quarter drives that resulted in Santos field goals. Foles finished the game completing 30 of 42 passes for 243 yards with one TD, one interception and an 83.7 passer rating.
"That's who he is," Nagy said. "All in all, the offense made plays when they had to, and I think that's one of the special traits Nick has."
The Bears defense also made plays when it had to. The unit held the Buccaneers to one touchdown—forcing them to settle four field goals—five days after Brady had thrown five TD passes in a 38-31 win over the Chargers.
The future Hall of Famer completed 25 of 41 passes for 253 yards with one TD and an 86.7 passer rating. In Brady's three previous games against the Bears—all Patriots wins—New England scored 36, 51 and 38 points.
The Bears generated consistent pressure on Brady Thursday night, with Khalil Mack recording two of the defense's three sacks. Mack had a third sack nullified when he drew a roughing-the-passer penalty after throwing Brady to the ground after the whistle.
"You have a guy like Khalil that, every single snap, he's bringing it, and you just have to know that he's coming," Nagy said.
Kyle Fuller produced what Nagy described as the biggest play of the game when his perfectly-timed crushing hit on running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn resulted in a fumble that Robert Quinn recovered at the Buccaneers' 27. The play was initially ruled an incomplete pass but was reversed after a replay review showed that Vaughn had possessed the ball before losing it.
The takeaway came after Montgomery's 3-yard TD run had drawn the Bears to within 13-7 and set up Foles' TD pass to Graham. The two touchdowns in a 1:12 span late in the second quarter gave the Bears a 14-13 halftime lead.
At times, Brady seemed to show some frustration on the field and the sideline—especially after being hit by Mack and following penalties on Tampa Bay's offensive line.
"I can't really say what he was going through," Mack said. "I just know that we smelled a little blood in the water."
"Any time you can frustrate Tom Brady, it's a great day, and our defense did that today," Foles said. "I was really proud of our defense and what they did today."
The same could be said about Santos, who twice gave the Bears a one-point lead in the fourth quarter by drilling his only two field-goal attempts of the game. His 47-yarder made it 17-16 with 10:34 remaining before his 38-yarder put the Bears back on top 20-19 with 1:13 to go after the Buccaneers had taken a 19-17 lead on Ryan Succop's 25-yard field with 4:49 to play.
"For him to make a 47-yard field goal, which was big, and then that 38-yard field goal game-winner, I think that just speaks to him as a person," Nagy said.
With both offenses held without a touchdown in the second half, Thursday night's seesaw contest turned into an old-fashioned defensive battle that featured five lead changes, including four in the second half.
"It wasn't an easy game by any means," Foles said. "We just kept fighting, kept fighting, and everyone just kept throwing punches. I would say the big thing from tonight was we got to learn how to go through a fistfight like this and come out on top. You don't want them every week, but if that's what it takes to win every week, that's what we'll do."