Bears 38, Jets 34. That’s not how Chris Harris imagined it. “If you had told me before this game that the Bears and Jets were going to have a shootout, I’d have laughed,” Chicago’s safety said.
Bears 38, Jets 34.
That’s not how Chris Harris imagined it.
“If you had told me before this game that the Bears and Jets were going to have a shootout, I’d have laughed,” Chicago’s safety said.
The Bears can laugh not just because they won again Sunday, but because they showed a new way to win.
“People thought we could only play defense and special teams,” said Harris, who clinched the victory in the final minute with his career-high fifth interception.
That’s enough to sometimes win a division title, but only the 2000 Ravens have been able to win a Super Bowl with a caretaker offense.
After scoring 38 and 40 points the last two weeks against the NFL’s No. 4- and No. 6-rated defenses, the Bears showed they can win without their offense tied behind their back.
Just like real Super Bowl contenders.
“It feels good to know we can win that way,” left tackle Frank Omiyale said, “because we’re going to need to win like this later on.”
Winning “like this” means coming from 11 points behind by scoring four touchdowns in 10 plays.
Jay Cutler capped a seven-play drive with a 2-yard scramble, and then threw touchdown passes of 40, 25 and 26 yards in Chicago’s next nine plays to put the Bears ahead 31-24.
“We couldn’t stop a nose bleed then,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
“When Cutler is hot, he’s as good as there is.”
Cutler wasn’t hot much early. Not last year, when the Bears scored more than 22 points in only three of their first 14 games. And not this year, when they topped 22 in one of their first eight games. But now they’ve done so five of the last seven weeks.
“You can’t come out here Week 1 and expect to be firing on all cylinders,” Cutler said.
The Bears can expect it now.
“We’ve shown that we can go get it in different ways,” Omiyale said. “We’re trying to set ourselves up for good things. This is the only way to do it.”
In the past, that meant winning with defense. Which, in the end, meant Chicago’s winning stopped when the playoffs started. The Bears have three playoff wins in 19 years.
Putting 38 up on the Jets (10-5) says these Bears no longer look like a one-and-done playoff team.
“Everybody believes we are Super Bowl contenders,” receiver Earl Bennett said.
The Bears (11-4) showed that belief by welcoming one-on-one coverage. Even though it was against All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis and former All-Pro Antonio Cromartie.
“It was like I had another day of Christmas,” receiver Johnny Knox said.
Cromartie is huge for a cornerback.
“He’s like a tree,” Knox said.
But that didn’t stop Knox from jumping over him for a touchdown.
“Jay just put it where he couldn’t get a hand on it,” said Knox, who had four catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns. “I just had to go up there and make another play.”
As easy as that.
Nothing looked easy for the defense.
Until the offense needed them.
And then the defense held the Jets scoreless on their final three drives.
“At certain points in the game, we need each other to hold up our end of the deal,” defensive end Julius Peppers said.
The defense didn’t just hold. It was asked to hold. The Bears ran on five consecutive plays in the last three minutes, trusting their defense to hold.
“Sometimes you gotta rely on your defense, and they came through in the clutch. They always do,” said running back Matt Forte, who had 113 yards rushing and 56 receiving.
“We have faith in them.”
That’s the thing with the 2010 Bears; even at their worst, they can count on their defense.
And people no longer expect the worst from their offense.
The Bears are now a whole team, not just a half.
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at: 815-987-1383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.