Another impressive performance by Mitchell Trubisky fueled an offensive explosion Thursday night that carried the Bears to their third straight victory.
The third-year quarterback accounted for four touchdowns, passing for 244 yards and three TDs and rushing for a season-high 63 yards and one TD in leading the Bears to a 31-24 win over the Cowboys at Soldier Field.
"He did a great job out there," said left tackle Charles Leno Jr., "commanding the offense, doing his thing with the tempo that we were using, getting everybody lined up, getting everybody in situations to succeed. He was just doing his job. I told him before the game, 'Just be the best you that you can possible be.'"
In registering their fourth victory in five games, the Bears (7-6) raised their record above .500 for the first time since they were 3-2. In the process, they crept to within a game-and-a-half of the Vikings (8-4) and a half-game of the Rams (7-5) for the second and final wild card spot in the NFC.
"Just proud of our guys being put in the situation and taking full advantage of it," said coach Matt Nagy. "We played a full game tonight across the board. Had some adversity there early on with that long drive, the touchdown, but no one flinched. That's what we know we want to keep growing from. That part was good."
The Cowboys opened the game with a methodical 17-play, 75-yard drive capped by Ezekiel Elliott's 2-yard touchdown run and followed with an interception by cornerback Jourdan Lewis. But after that, it was all Bears.
Trubisky led an offense that scored three touchdowns and one field goal on four straight possessions, turning an early 7-0 deficit into a commanding 24-7 lead midway through the third quarter. The Bears defense, meanwhile, held the Cowboys scoreless on six straight possessions after their game-opening touchdown. Four of the drives resulted in three-and-outs, with Dallas mustering just six yards on 12 plays. On those six possessions, quarterback Dak Prescott completed just 3 of 11 passes for 26 yards.
"It was a physical game," Nagy said. "We knew it was going to be a fistfight. But our guys stepped up to the challenge and we got the win."
After rushing for 80 yards on 26 carries in his first 12 starts of the season, Trubisky ran for 63 yards on 10 attempts against the Cowboys. It was the second most prolific rushing game of Trubisky's career behind only an 81-yard effort last year in a 38-31 loss to the Patriots at Soldier Field.
Most of Trubisky's rushes Thursday night were scrambles, but some came on designed runs—like his 23-yard touchdown scamper on a read-option play that gave the Bears a 31-14 lead early in the fourth quarter.
"It was very evident that he used [his legs] as a weapon," Nagy said. "We saw some things that we liked in regard to the run scheme. Whenever he's able to use his legs like that, he becomes another running back."
After passing for 338 yards and three touchdowns a week earlier in a 24-20 Thanksgiving win over the Lions, Trubisky completed 23 of 31 passes and posted a stellar 115.5 passer rating.
Receivers Allen Robinson II (5 catches for 48 yards and 2 TDs) and Anthony Miller (3-42-1) combined for eight receptions, 90 yards and 3 TDs. It was also a productive night for Bears tight ends, with Jesper Horsted catching four passes for 36 yards and J.P. Holtz adding three receptions for a team-high 56 yards.
The Bears sustained drives by converting 7-of-12 third-down opportunities (58 percent) against a Cowboys defense that entered the game ranked third in the NFL in third-down efficiency, allowing opponents a success rate of just 34.5 percent.
"The guys on offense are stepping up to the challenge, accepting it," Nagy said. "The offensive line right now is playing really well. They're creating holes. They're doing great in the pass game. They're doing what we know they're capable of doing. That was a very, very tough front four today. That's a light way to put it. Really, they're good. I'm proud of our offensive line for stepping up."
The Bears defense played without three injured starters in tackle Akiem Hicks, inside linebacker Danny Trevathan and cornerback Prince Amukamara, who missed the game due to a hamstring injury he sustained on Thanksgiving against the Lions.
The unit lost a fourth key starter on the game's opening possession when inside linebacker Roquan Smith exited with a pectoral injury. He was replaced by Kevin Pierre-Louis, who stepped up to the challenge by recording five tackles, one tackle-for-loss, one quarterback hit and two pass breakups.
As the Bears enter the final three weeks of the season with their playoff hopes still flickering, Nagy is proud of how his team responded to a four-game losing streak by winning four of five contests.
"Everybody is seeing what type of people we have on this football team," Nagy said. "No one has flinched. We've pulled together, become even tighter. We're winning football games now. We're playing as a team. Are we going to be perfect? No. Are we going to coach perfect? No. We're going to do everything we can to be as good as we can and win football games."