The Bengals’ season is all but over and by the looks of the team on Sunday against the Bears, the players know it.
Giovani Bernard was the only bright spot in this game for the Bengals. He had 17 touches and 130 total yards as the team’s leading rusher and receiver. Other than screens to Bernard, the passing game was totally absent.
Completing less than 50 percent of the pass attempts, the Bengals’ 162 yards through the air was just one area where the team was out-dueled by the Bears. In the end, AJ McCarron ended up replacing Andy Dalton at quarterback.
The Bears offense, however, saw no such struggle. The one-two punch of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen was good enough to run for over 200 yards. Mitchell Trubisky would pass for 271 yards and complete over 78 percent of his passes. Kendall Wright added over 100 receiving yards to the Bears’ winning efforts.
The Bengals received the opening kickoff, but ended up punting. The Bears would start with excellent field position thanks to a Bengals’ penalty on the punt. Cohen and Howard broke out runs of 14 and 21 yards, respectively, with Howard’s going to the end zone.
With great blocking at the line, Howard broke away from the line and no defenders were able to catch him. Former Bengals kicker Mike Nugent missed the extra point, but the Bears still lead 6-0 with 11:05 left in the first quarter thanks to their first opening drive touchdown of the year.
How fitting for Nugent to return to Paul Brown Stadium while kicking for another team and go on to miss his first attempt?
The two teams traded punts and Giovani Bernard got things going for the Bengals’ offense. Starting his first game this season, Bernard took the ball three times for 32 yards on the first three plays of the drive.
A.J. Green added two catches for 22 yards. Brian Hill, a rookie from Wyoming, attempted his first career rush, which was good for four yards. Hill came over from the Falcons’ practice squad when Jeremy Hill went on Injured Reserve.
The drive ended on a 14-yard pass to Brandon LaFell. Dalton found LaFell on a flag route as the receiver tapped his toes in bounds for the score. Randy Bullock’s extra point was good, and the Bengals took a 7-6 lead with 2:05 remaining in the first quarter. It would be their final lead of the game.
Bengals take a 7-6 lead on Andy Dalton's 14 yard TD to Brandon LaFell. pic.twitter.com/OlCAPR3C5I— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 10, 2017
After going three for seven on his first two drives, Dalton was perfect on all three pass attempts on the touchdown drive. Dalton improved his impressive touchdown to interception ratio over the last seven games to 12:0. His NFL-leading streak of pass attempts without an interception was extended as well. (Though, neither of those things would last for long due to a tipped pass by A.J. Green resulting in an interception later one.)
The Bears were right back in it with a 36-yard pass from Mitchell Trubisky to Josh Bellamy. However, Chicago could not overcome penalties and their great field position resulted in a third and 20 on the Bengals’ 22-yard line that they could not convert. Most of the damage had already been done, though, and Nugent came out to take back the lead with a 34-yard field goal with 12:38 left in the second quarter.
Down 9-6, the Bengals punted on their next drive and put the Bears close to their own end zone. Despite penalties and a negative run for the Bears, the Bengals could not stop Trubisky and the passing offense. Cohen added a run 19 yards to keep moving the chains down the field. Trubisky was seven of nine with 72 yards on the drive, but was unable to convert on third and one inside the Bengals’ 10-yard line. As a result, Nugent came on to extend the Bears’ lead from 27 yards out with 1:46 left in the first half. The Bengals now trailed 12-7 but could not get out of the shadow of their end zone. That would be the score at halftime.
Going into the locker room, the Bears’ offense probably felt really good about themselves. They ran 35 plays on offense in the first half after running 36 plays the whole game last week. The combination of Howard and Cohen was too much for the Bengals’ defense, as the two rushed 13 times for 96 yards and 7.4 yards a carry.
Trubisky was having one of the best games of his short career, completing nearly 74 percent of his passes. The only thing that was stopping the Bears was the Bears, losing 49 yards on penalties in the half. Flags are the only thing keeping red zone possessions to field goals.
After Dalton’s red-hot drive that resulted in a touchdown, he failed to complete any passes in the second quarter. He was zero for four in the second, and a mere 6 for 14 for 57 yards in the half. The only positive is that he had not turned the ball over.
The Bengals continued to look lost on defense as the Bears’ momentum was unstoppable. The Bears would come out of the locker room and run nine plays on their first drive, but only one snap was on third down. The Bengals couldn’t stop either the run or the pass, and Trubisky finished off the 76-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good, and the Bears extended their lead to 19-7 with 4:47 remaining in the third quarter.
On the next Bengals’ drive, Dalton’s streak of passes without an interception came to and end after 194 attempts. Dalton’s first pass of the possession bounced off of A.J. Green’s pads and landed in the arms of Eddie Jackson at the Bengals’ 43 yard line. The Bengals’ offense was all out of sorts after the first quarter.
The Bears would continue their trend of moving the chains against a lackadaisical Bengals’ defense. Howard and Cohen brought the Bears to the red zone where a pass interference call against Kevin Minter would set the offense up on the one-yard line. From there, Trubisky floated an easy pass to Adam Shaheen. The game was getting out of hand for the Bengals, now 26-7 after Nugent’s extra point with 14:52 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Bengals’ offense showed signs of life when Dalton connected with Green for 18 yards. A few plays later, Dalton found Green again, but Jackson stripped the ball at the end of the play and recovered the fumble. So what looked like a promising drive ended in another turnover.
The Bears chipped their way down the field once again. Kendall Wright helped move the stick with two receptions going for a total of 32 yards. The drive came to an end after Howard stretched out at the end of an eight-yard run to break the plane of the end zone. Nugent’s kick was good as the Bears extended their lead 34-7 over the sleeping Bengals with 9:18 remaining in the game.
The only player that seemed to get anything going was Bernard, and two screen passes for 25 yards helped him get the offense into plus territory. Two sacks ended all of the Bengals’ minimal momentum, however, and Dalton’s fourth down pass to Tyler Boyd was incomplete.
After forcing the Bears to punt, AJ McCarron came on to the field with 4:30 remaining in the game. Two of his first five passes were screens to Bernard for 41 yards. He only completed three of his seven attempts, and missed C.J. Uzomah on a long fourth down attempt.
The Bears were content to run down the clock and ended up winning the game 33-7. The Bears improved to 4-9 as the Bengals fell to a miserable 5-8.