The Bears didn't hold their double-digit comeback until the fourth quarter this week.
After falling behind 13-0, the Bears managed to score two touchdowns after the two-minute warning in the second quarter in an eventual 20-19 win over the Buccaneers. The team went into halftime with the lead for only the second time this season, thanks in part to a hard hit by cornerback Kyle Fuller.
That hard hit went from disastrous to game-changing in a matter of minutes.
With the Buccaneers up 13-7 and facing third-and-10 deep in their own territory, quarterback Tom Brady found running back Ke' Shawn Vaughn on a short route. Fuller's shoulder-to-chest slam against Vaughn jarred the ball loose.
The play was ruled an incomplete pass, and one official threw a flag on Fuller's hit. If the penalty had stood, it would have given the Buccaneers a new set of downs. After a short discussion, the flag was picked up, forcing the Buccaneers to send in their punt team.
Then came the booth review.
Replay revealed that Vaughn had gained possession before Fuller's hit, turning the incomplete pass into a catch and fumble recovered by outside linebacker Robert Quinn. Suddenly, the Bears had the ball with plenty of time to find the end zone. Moments later, quarterback Nick Foles found tight end Jimmy Graham in the end zone.
In 1:12 of game time, the Bears erased a 13-0 hole, keeping the game within reach.
"It's always a boost when we get turnovers," said outside linebacker Khalil Mack. "That's just the mindset of this group, man. It's everybody going after the ball and trying to make a play. We made the play tonight."
Stepping up: Jimmy Graham came to Chicago to fix two issues for the Bears offense: the absence of productive tight ends and struggles to score touchdowns in the red zone.
Through five games, so far, so good.
Graham gave the team their first lead of the game with a one-handed 12-yard touchdown catch, his fourth of the season.
"Jimmy one-on-one, it's a hard matchup," said Foles. "The defense was starting to give us different looks, but the good thing about it is we have the talent on the offensive side of the ball to spread the ball around. So if they want to start taking Jimmy out, we have other guys that can do it."
Graham has 17 catches for 169 yards on the season. Both numbers would have made him the Bears' most productive tight end for the entire 2019 season. His four touchdowns doubles the amount the tight end group combined for a season ago.
Redemption: Before joining the Bears this summer, Cairo Santos had played for five teams in three seasons, including an earlier stint in Chicago. A year ago this week, Santos missed four field goals in the same game for the Tennessee Titans.
This year feels different for Santos due to his 38-yard game-winner against the Buccaneers.
"It's amazing," he said. "Sometimes it just shocks me the way careers and stories happen. I got released last year in the fifth game of the season on a bad game, and here we are with a chance to play against my former team. As an athlete, you always want to have that. I used to watch soccer players have big games against their former teams. There is something special about it."
As time ticked off the clock, Santos watched as the offense sat just outside of his range. When Foles escaped pressure to find David Montgomery for a 17-yard gain to the Buccaneers' 25-yard line, the Bears were suddenly well within Santos' range.
"I really wanted the opportunity," he said. "I felt that I was due or something like that. I wanted to have a streak of games with makes to get it going and I knew I could take off from there. Coming off the last game and the short week, I was really focused on putting the next streak together. Pressure is a privilege."
Santos has now made 7 of 9 attempts in his first five games with the Bears after connecting on his last four attempts. Santos said that he is growing confident in the role and that the drama surrounding the Bears kicking situation over the last few years has not entered his mind.
"I sensed a lot of confidence from practice to this point," he said. "I feel like [the Bears] really trust me. I haven't kept up with the history a whole lot. I just kind of focus on myself every year. That didn't cross my mind that there hasn't been a history of late kicks here lately. I got my opportunity and knocked it through."
Finish strong: The Bears could not rest easy after Santos' field goal. The defense had to deny Brady one more dramatic victory late in the game, something that has been his calling card since January of 2002.
The defense came out with a clear goal in mind.
"Get 'em off the field," said linebacker Roquan Smith. "If we get 'em off the field with the amount of time that was left off the clock, our offense can easily take a knee, and we win the ballgame. So it was just about stepping up in a moment like that."
That goal came to fruition when safety DeAndre Houston-Carson knocked down Brady's fourth-down throw to tight end Cameron Brate. Houston-Carson, a special teams stalwart, was pressed into action with Deon Bush and Sherrick McManis out with hamstring injuries.
"When our backs are against the wall," said Mack, "there's a lot of doubt out there. We believe in each other and we know in those moments that we can count on one another. The DBs tonight, they did a hell of a job. Hell of a job. It was time to get there. DHC [Houston-Carson], he ran those routes. He ran that last route. It's a beautiful thing to see out there, man."
The game's defining image may be Brady holding up four fingers after the incompletion, indicating that he believed the previous play was third down. However, the Bears' defense was well aware of the situation around them.
"I wasn't really too worried about what he thought," said Smith. "I knew what the sticks said."