DENVER – The 2019 grand opening of Club Dub was a spectacular one Sunday in Denver. But a euphoric group of Bears players didn’t wait to enter their locker room to start the party.
A raucous celebration exploded on the field as soon as Eddy Piñeiro's booming 53-yard field goal as time expired turned what would have been a crushing loss into a scintillating 16-14 win over the Broncos.
Piñeiro’s third field goal of the game without a miss lifted the Bears (1-1) to their first victory of the season after they had blown a 13-3 fourth-quarter lead.
“That was a crazy one, absolutely crazy,” said coach Matt Nagy. “Just a whirlwind of emotions going back and forth.
“In the end, though, the only thing that matters is that we hung together, never ever doubted each other. We kept fighting, we kept plugging away, and we never let a big swing of emotion affect us finishing the game, and that’s the coolest part of tonight.”
Denver trailed 13-6 when Joe Flacco’s 7-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders drew the Broncos to within 13-12 with :31 remaining in the game.
Denver coach Vic Fangio, the former Bears defensive coordinator, kept his offense on the field to attempt a two-point conversion. But when the Broncos were flagged for delay of game, Fangio opted to kick a tying extra point.
Brandon McManus pushed the kick wide right, but Buster Skrine drew an offsides penalty, nullifying the play. With the ball moved to the 1, Denver’s offense returned to the field and Flacco hit Sanders with a two-point conversion pass that gave the Broncos a 14-13 lead.
On the Bears’ subsequent possession, they faced fourth-and-15 from their own 40 when Mitchell Trubisky stepped up in the pocket and completed a 25-yard pass over the middle to Allen Robinson II, who immediately went to the ground at the Denver 35, enabling the Bears to call their final timeout with :01 to play.
Piñeiro followed with the game-winning kick, capping one of the most fantastic finishes in recent Bears history. The young kicker, who earlier in the contest had made field goals from 40 and 52 yards, was mobbed by his teammates.
“When I won the Super Bowl with the Giants in 2011,” said cornerback Prince Amukamara, “I just remember I threw my helmet off—and I had the same reaction after this one.”
“He crushed it,” Trubisky said. “I didn’t want to go on the field until I knew it went through. Then I saw him running and we all chased after Eddy. It was just pandemonium. It was awesome, really exciting.”
The Bears defense played well for three quarters, holding the Broncos to three points. After a McManus field goal on the game’s opening possession, Denver was forced to punt on its next five drives extending into the third quarter.
But the defense seemed to eventually tire in the 90-degree heat, allowing the Broncos to march deep into Chicago territory on their final three possessions. They settled for a McManus field goal early in the fourth quarter and scored their only touchdown of the game in the final minute.
In between, the defense thwarted the Broncos on third-and-goal from the 2 when Kyle Fuller intercepted Flacco’s pass intended for Sanders at the 3 with 4:45 to play. It was the first takeaway of the season for the Bears, who led the NFL last year with 36 takeaways and 27 interceptions.
The Bears were significantly more balanced on offense Sunday than they had been in a Week 1 loss to the Packers. They rushed for 153 yards and one TD on 29 carries, while Trubisky completed 16 of 27 passes for 120 yards.
David Montgomery rushed for 62 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries. The rookie third-round pick scored the Bears’ first TD of the season on a 1-yard plunge on third-and-goal, giving his team a 13-3 lead late in the third quarter.
The TD came on Montgomery’s third straight rush after a defensive holding penalty had given the Bears a first down at the 1. He lost one yard on his first carry and then gained the yard back on second down. On Montgomery’s TD, he powered up the middle and barely broke the plane by extending the ball.
“I’m proud of our offensive line and our running backs and our tight ends running and balling right there,” Nagy said. “That was a bit of a mindset deal that we’re not throwing this football. We’re going to run it in until we run it in.”
That type of belief in his players is part of the winning culture Nagy has brought to the Bears since the day he was hired as head coach in January 2018.
“One thing coach always preaches is all we need is one second and the ball, and we got that,” Amukamara said. “This is a resilient group, and that comes from our head coach.”