Khalil Mack sparked a dominant performance by the Bears defense Sunday at Soldier Field, generating multiple impact plays in a 36-7 trouncing of the Texans.
First, the star outside linebacker forced and recovered a Duke Johnson fumble, ripping the ball out of the Houston running back's hands midway through the first quarter.
Mack followed by sacking quarterback Deshaun Watson in the end zone for a safety, giving the Bears a 16-7 lead with 6:04 left in the second period. Mack also broke up a Watson pass intended for tight end Jordan Akins in the first half.
"He's definitely one of the guys that's known to make plays, and he got back to himself," said linebacker Danny Trevathan. "He was out there trying to wreak havoc. The whole team feeds off him when he makes big plays. That's what we expect him to do."
Mack started a feeding frenzy for the defense, which recorded seven sacks—the most by the Bears since they compiled eight in a 13-3 win over the Panthers Nov. 20, 2005 at Soldier Field. Roquan Smith and Mario Edwards Jr. registered two sacks apiece, while Bilal Nichols and Brent Urban added one each.
Prior to Sunday, the defense had mustered only eight sacks during the Bears' six-game losing streak.
"[Mack] came out with the right mindset all week and executed his plays," Trevathan said. "A lot of guys stepped up when they tried to double him and we had a lot of sacks today. That's what you want to see."
Mack now leads the Bears with 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles this year. His safety was the first by the team since the 2019 season finale when Nick Kwiatkoski tackled Vikings running back Mike Boone in the end zone in a 21-19 win over Minnesota.
After allowing five touchdowns in each of the previous two games to the Packers and Lions, the Bears permitted just one TD Sunday. The seven points they yielded were their fewest since Sept. 29, 2019 in a 16-6 win over the Vikings at Soldier Field.
"It definitely provided a lot of motivation, the last two weeks prior to this week about not playing to our standards," Smith said. "We all knew that deep down inside this was a reality check. We had to look ourselves in the mirror, and I felt like this week we came out and played to our standards and we just have to continue that for the rest of the year."
On the run: David Montgomery's career-long 80-yard touchdown run on the Bears' first play from scrimmage was the team's longest rush since Neal Anderson's 80-yard TD Nov. 27, 1988 in a 16-0 win over the Packers at Soldier Field.
"Really, it had nothing to do with me, to be honest with you," Montgomery said. "You probably could run through that hole and run the 80 yards. Just being able to have that line move and push the way they did and create that amazing hole, it's crazy. I just saw it and hit it. I had Allen Robinson blocking on the outside. If it hadn't been for him, I probably would have gotten caught."
Montgomery rushed for 106 of his season-high 113 yards in the first half, becoming the first Bears running back to top 100 yards in the first half since Matt Forte had 105 of his 141 yards in the first half Sept. 13, 2015 in a loss to the Packers.
In three games since missing one contest with a concussion, Montgomery has rushed for 288 yards and three touchdowns on 39 carries, a stellar 7.38-yard average. He has now topped 100 yards in two of his last three games and in four contests overall in two seasons.
Catch this: With a 35-yard catch in the third quarter, Robinson eclipsed 1,000 yards for the second straight season. He becomes the fifth receiver in franchise history to accomplish that feat in back-to-back years, joining Curtis Conway (1994-95), Marty Booker (2001-02), Brandon Marshall (2012-13) and Alshon Jeffery (2013-14).
Robinson has had a reception of at least 20 yards in 11 straight games, the longest stretch by a Bears player since Jeff Graham in 1995.
Kicking it: Cairo Santos made both field goals he attempted, connecting from 39 and 32 yards. He has now converted 18 straight field goals, last missing in a Week 3 win in Atlanta. Santos is now 21-of-23 this season, a 91.3 percent success rate that would be the best in Bears history. The record of 89.7 percent is held by Robbie Gould, set in 2008 and matched in 2013 when he made 26-of-29 tries in both seasons.
On the shelf: Nickel back Buster Skrine (concussion) and reserve outside linebacker James Vaughters (knee) sat out Sunday's game with injuries. Skrine was replaced by second-year pro Duke Shelley, who was credited with three tackles and one pass breakup. Offensive lineman Lachavious Simmons and defensive tackle Daniel McCullers were also inactive.
The Texans played without starting running back David Johnson, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday; and their top three receivers. Brandin Cooks sat out with foot and neck injuries, Will Fuller is serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances and Randall Cobb is on injured reserve with a toe injury.
News and notes: With Sunday's win, the Bears have now defeated all 31 other NFL teams. They had previously lost all four meetings with the Texans since Houston entered the league as an expansion team in 2002 ... With DeAndre Carter placed on the COVID list Thursday, Anthony Miller handled punt-return duties, returning one punt for four yards and calling two fair catches ... The Bears improved to 3-0 when wearing their 1936 throwback uniforms, with the first two wins coming last season ... The Bears failed to score a touchdown in the third quarter for the 12th time in 13 games this season. But they did produce their first third-period field goal of the year.
See the game unfold through the lenses of our sideline photographers as the Bears face off against the Texans in Chicago.