A hip injury prevented Roquan Smith from practicing all week. But it didn't keep the Bears' two-time All-Pro linebacker from producing the most significant play in Sunday's 23-20 win over the Texans at Soldier Field.
With the game knotted 20-20 late, Smith intercepted a Davis Mills pass and returned it 18 yards to the Houston 12 with 1:05 remaining, setting up Cairo Santos' game-winning 30-yard field goal as time expired.
"It was big time," Smith said. "It was really D-linemen rushing. I think somebody got a hand on the ball. I think it was tipped if I'm not mistaken. Then I just said, 'Oh!' I couldn't believe it. It fell right to me. They say, 'catch the ones that come to you,' and I did, and the rest is history."
The pass over the middle, which was intended for running back Rex Burkhead on third-and-1 from the Texans' 26, was in fact deflected by defensive tackle Angelo Blackson.
"I figured the quarterback was just going to try to get the first down and move the sticks," Smith said. "So I was like, 'OK, cool.' And then after that I said, 'OK, I'm going to break on it,' and then I took a chance."
It was Smith's first interception of the season and his sixth in five years with the Bears. He also recorded a team-high 16 tackles and two tackles-for-loss. With the Bears protecting a slim 20-17 lead late in the third quarter, Smith dropped running back Dameon Pierce for a three-yard loss on third-and-1 from the 2, forcing the Texans to settle for a game-tying field goal.
Super sub: After running back David Montgomery exited with ankle and knee injuries on the Bears' second possession, replacement Khalil Herbert stepped in and stepped up, rushing for a career-high 157 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
Herbert told reporters that he dedicated the game to Montgomery, who was injured while pass blocking when defensive tackle Michael Dwumfour landed on the back of the running back's right leg.
"I told '32' that was for him today," Herbert said. "We held it down and did good today. The O-line did a really good job of opening up holes for me. KB (fullback Khari Blasingame) did a great job of blocking."
The 157 yards were the most by a Bears player since Oct. 15, 2017, when Jordan Howard ran for 167 yards on 36 carries in a 27-24 overtime win over the Ravens in Baltimore.
"Khalil ran hard for David," said Lucas Patrick, who rotated with Teven Jenkins at right guard for the third straight game. "He runs hard; I'm not trying to discredit his talent. But he took it to a next level. It was like he was running for two. I'm very proud of him."
On the run: The Bears rushed for 281 yards on 40 carries, the most since Sept. 30, 1984, when they amassed 283 yards on 47 attempts in a 23-14 loss to the Cowboys in Dallas.
Justin Fields ran for 47 yards on eight carries, including a career-long 29-yard gain that set up Santos' first of three field goals without a miss. Receiver Equanimeous St. Brown also recorded the longest run of his career, a 41-yarder on a jet sweep that set up the Bears' first touchdown.
The ground game produced 186 yards in the first half, the most by the Bears since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
Takeaway time: Safety Eddie Jackson recorded his second interception of the season late in the first quarter, picking off a Mills pass intended for receiver Brandin Cooks that was broken up by Kindle Vildor in the end zone.
"Kindle made a great play, so I owe him big time on that," Jackson said. "We knew they like to run that route. That was one of the heavy emphases for us in the red zone."
The Texans entered Sunday's game as one of two NFL teams that had not thrown an interception this season. The Chiefs were the other.
The Bears picked off two passes but almost had four takeaways. Jackson and Blackson forced Pierce to fumble in the first and fourth quarters, respectively, but the Texans recovered both loose balls.
Next men up: Cornerback Jaylon Johnson did not play due to a quad injury he sustained during the week in practice. He was replaced by Vildor, who registered five tackles, two tackle-for-loss and two pass breakups.
"Just that next man mentality," Jackson said. "Get these young guys ready and prepared. Today we were just overcommunicating with them, just making sure they know what they're in. It always hurts when a guy like [Johnson] goes down. Everyone sees what he brings to the table to our defense. When a guy like that goes down, other guys have got to step up, and we have a lot of young guys that are doing a lot of good things early."
Receiver Velus Jones Jr. (hamstring), tight end Ryan Griffin (Achilles), linebacker Matt Adams (hamstring) and safety Dane Cruikshank (hamstring) also sat out with injuries. Guard Ja'Tyre Carter was a healthy scratch.
Room to improve: A strong running game and an opportunistic defense helped the Bears overcome an unproductive aerial attack. Fields completed just 8 of 17 passes for 106 yards with two interceptions and a 27.7 passer rating.
The second-year pro struggled with his accuracy, with overthrows resulting in a pair of interceptions by safety Jalen Pitre.
"Just got to get better," Fields said. "Plain and simple, that's it … I played like trash. Really just got to be better."
News and notes: After getting blanked in the first two games, Cole Kmet had two receptions for a team-high 40 yards. Darnell Mooney added two catches for 20 yards … The Bears showed improvement on third down, converting 42.9 percent of their opportunities (6 of 14) … Justin Jones recorded the Bears' only sack of the game. It was his first of the year. He now has 5.5 in five NFL seasons … Receiver Byron Pringle exited in the first half with a calf injury after catching one pass for 11 yards.
See the Week 3 action unfold from behind the lens as the Bears take on the Texans at Soldier Field.