Week 3 was a back-and-forth affair for the Bears and Texans. Halfway through the first quarter it looked like the Bears would walk away with a 35-0. Then, the Texans came storming back to take a lead at halftime. In the second half, each team traded blows一 and miscues一 to the point that there was some buzz developing about an ugly tie. But the Bears found a way to win in the end, and moved to 2-1 on the season. Here are the five most important plays that helped the Bears seal the win on Sunday.
NO. 5: JUSTIN JONES SACKS DAVIS MILLS
The scene - Bears: 20, Texans: 20. Houston has the ball 2nd-and-6 at the Bears’ 35-yard line. 14:14 left in the fourth quarter.
The play - Before the snap, Jones and Angelo Blackson slide a bit down the line, so that Jones is almost playing directly in front of Texans left guard Kenyon Green. The Texans pull Green to the right side of the line after the snap, with center Scott Quessenberry presumably responsible for moving to find Jones. Jones was able to scoot past Quessenberry on the right A gap for a sack.
The main reason this play was so important is because of the context in which Jones came away with the sack. The Texans had just driven 70 yards to tie the game at 20 points, and the Bears had not only squandered their opportunity to respond, but set up the Texans to take the lead. Justin Fields made his worst mistake of the day by forcing a ball into triple coverage to Darnell Mooney. Jalen Pitre intercepted the ball and returned it into Bears territory, giving the Texans a chance to kick a go-ahead field goal. But Jones’ sack knocked the Texans out of field goal range, and set up the following 3rd-and-14 stop. The Bears managed to keep the game tied, and ended up winning 23-20.
NO. 4: CAIRO SANTOS 50-YARD FIELD GOAL
The scene - Texans: 14, Bears: 10. Bears have the ball 4th-and-15 at the Texans 32-yard line. 1:53 left in the second quarter.
The play - Cairo Santos hits the field goal. Routine field goal operation.
Even though Santos has been the most reliable Bears kicker since Robbie Gould, there’s no such thing as an automatic 50+ yarder. The Bears could’ve made things easier for Santos, but Fields was sacked on the previous third down play, which backed up the attempt. It didn’t matter. Santos hit it and helped the Bears close the gap as halftime approached.
NO. 3: EDDIE JACKSON INTERCEPTION IN THE ENDZONE
The scene - Bears: 10, Texans: 7. Texans have the ball 2nd-and-goal at the Bears five-yard line. 0:51 left in the first quarter.
The play - Davis Mills targets Brandin Cooks coming off a slant route. Kindle Vildor dives to break up the pass and pops it up in the process. Jackson tracks down the ball, catches it, then dots his feet inbounds to make sure the interception counts before stepping out of bounds for a touchback.
Another huge defensive play to stop the Texans from gaining momentum, and possibly gaining the lead too. Houston had just marched 75 yards in 3:05 to pull within three points of the Bears. On the second play of the Bears’ ensuing drive, Fields badly overthrew a ball and was intercepted. The Texans looked like they were set to score again, quickly, either giving them a four-point lead with a touchdown, or tying the game with a field goal. Vildor and Jackson combined to create a huge takeaway when the team needed it, and the Bears managed to erase a prime scoring chance for the Texans.
NO. 2: KHALIL HERBERT ONE-YARD RUSHING TOUCHDOWN
The scene - Texans: 17, Bears: 13. Bears have the ball 3rd-and-goal from the Texans one-yard line. 8:28 left in the third quarter.
The play - Bears line up in I-formation, with Riley Reiff checking in as an extra blocker. Trevon Wesco motions from the right side of the line to the left, then as the ball is snapped Khari Blasingame fills in right behind Wesco. Herbert follows both of his lead blockers into the endzone.
One week after the Bears fell short on a goal line carry out of the shotgun, the Bears went to the power running game and the I-formation. It worked. Wesco immediately made it to the second level and reset the line of scrimmage on the goal line at the point of attack. Blasingame helped move the rest of the pile forward, and Herbert kept his feet moving behind Blasingame to score. The Bears got the lead back, but also probably gave themselves a bit of confidence as they were able to execute on the goal line just one week after failing to score in the same scenario against the Packers.
NO. 1: ROQUAN SMITH INTERCEPTS DAVIS MILLS
The scene - Bears: 20, Texans: 20. Texans have the ball 3rd-and-1 at their own 26-yard line. 1:13 left in the fourth quarter.
The play - Davis Mills moves through his progressions, right to left. As Mills settles on Rex Burkhead, Smith reads his eyes and begins breaking on the play. Mills throws, Angelo Blackson tips it at the line, and Smith perfectly undercuts the ball for the interception. Smith returns the interception 18 yards to the Bears 12-yard line.
The fourth quarter was largely a slog, and the Bears needed a big play to spark them for the win. Roquan Smith delivered. He helped make a case to his coaches that he can be the WILL linebacker they need, too. The big question for Smith heading into the season was whether or not he could create takeaways at the clip Matt Eberflus and Alan Williams expect. Smith got a big one, at a big time, and directly helped the Bears find a way to win. While Smith’s teammates will likely razz him for getting shoestring tackled by a quarterback, the return was just as important as the interception itself, since it allowed the Bears to go in victory formation to wind the clock down before attempting the game-winning kick.