Defense still has a prominent place in the NFL – at least in Chicago.
The Bears’ stingy No. 3 defense choked out the Rams’ No. 2 offense, one of the league’s most prolific, Sunday night on a national stage at Soldier Field.
“This game made a statement by itself,” Bears ILB Danny Trevathan said. “We wanted to go out here and show the world that we’re the top defense. We believe we’re the best defense in the league.”
The Rams probably believe it, too. Two weeks ago, they defeated the Chiefs 54-51 in a nationally televised game that resembled Arena Football. But the Bears weren’t having any of that nonsense in a 15-6 victory that elevated the NFC North leaders to 9-4 and dropped the NFC West champs to 11-2.
Sunday night’s game was originally scheduled for a noon kickoff, but the NFL flexed it to prime time, and the Bears put on their own kind of show.
“They wanted prime time, we gave them prime time,” Trevathan said. “That’s what you want as a defense. You want to show up and ball out.”
Akiem Hicks’ sack of Rams QB Jared Goff on fourth-and-4 with 4:28 left essentially ended it for L.A. but it started the celebration of a packed house welcoming back dominant defense.
“People wanted to see us in prime time,” Hicks said, “and it gives us an opportunity to show America how good we really are.”
The Rams possessed the ball for just 11 minutes and 32 seconds in the first half that ended in a 6-6 tie on a 50-yard field goal by L.A.’s Greg Zuerlein 4:12 before the break. The second half was just as bad for the Rams who had the ball for just 23 minutes and 11 seconds.
In true defensive fashion, NT Eddie Goldman put the Bears ahead 8-6 in the first minute of the second half when he sacked Goff in the end zone for a safety. The 2-pointer whipped the already pumped-up crowd into a frenzy and was set up when OLB Leonard Floyd tossed NFL rushing leader Todd Gurley for a five-yard loss back to the Rams’ eight-yard line.
After the safety, the Bears’ own struggling offense made its biggest contribution of the night with an 81-yard TD drive that ended the scoring with a defensive twist.
A week earlier, the 332-pound Hicks scored on a one-yard run. This time, with the Bears two yards from the end zone, Hicks entered again, along with fellow DLs Jonathan Bullard and Bilal Nichols. QB Mitch Trubisky faked a handoff to Hicks up the middle and threw to 6-foot-7, 312-pound backup OL Bradley Sowell for the TD with 9:58 left in the third quarter.
Later in the third quarter, when Trubisky gave the Rams a chance to get back in the game with a horribly thrown interception that Rams S John Johnson returned 35 yards to the Bears’ 27-yard line, the Chicago defense wouldn’t allow it. On the very next play, CB Kyle Fuller jumped a sideline route Goff intended for WR Josh Reynolds at the 19-yard line. It was Fuller’s team-best seventh interception, and tied him for the NFL lead.
Prince Amukamara’s third pick of the season with 2:13 left clinched the victory, and it was the Bears’ 25th interception of 2018. They now have one more interception in 13 games this season than they had in the three previous seasons combined.
The Rams came in averaging 439.9 yards per game but managed just 214 vs. the Bears. NFL rushing leader Todd Gurley finished with 28 yards on 11 carries, while the Bears rambled for a season-high 194 yards on 35 attempts, (5.5-yard average), led by Jordan Howard, who had a season-best 101 yards on 19 carries.
The Bears’ defense was just as devastating vs. the pass. Goff entered with a 109.9 passer rating, fifth best in the league, but he completed just 20 of 44 passes for 180 yards and a 19.1 passer rating with four interceptions.
“Everybody played like their hair was on fire, and it showed on the field,” OLB Leonard Floyd said. “We just came out and executed. Old school.”
The Bears had failed to take full advantage of a great opportunity after rookie ILB Roquan Smith got his first NFL interception and returned it 22 yards to the Rams’ four-yard line. Smith became the 11th Bears player this year with an interception.
But the Bears settled for Cody Parkey’s 31-yard field goal and a 6-3 lead with 9:24 left in the first half.
The much-maligned Bears run game sparked a game-tying FG drive earlier when Tarik Cohen took an inside handoff and bounced it outside for 32 yards, setting up Parkey’s 39-yard field goal with 2:48 left in the first quarter.
After Trubisky was picked off by Marcus Peters, who returned the interception 48 yards to the Bears’ 15-yard line, the Bears’ defense came to the rescue. It limited the Rams to Zuerlein’s 27-yard field goal and a 3-0 with 9:12 left in the first quarter.
“Our play on defense,” coach Matt Nagy said, “all I can say is ‘Wow.’ ”