There were bear hugs, faces of elation and huge sighs of relief along the Chicago Bears sideline on Thursday night. There were still nearly three minutes left in the game but wide receiver D.J. Moore had just caught a short pass on the far sideline and took it 56 yards to the end zone to put the Bears up three scores, all but putting the game away.
Chicago snapped its franchise-record 14-game losing streak in convincing fashion on Thursday Night Football, beating the Washington Commanders 40-20 to avoid its first 0-5 start since 1997.
“It’s a feeling you don’t want to end, to be honest with you,” quarterback Justin Fields said after the game. “We’re just going to take that feeling and hopefully come back next week and have the same feeling after the game. That’s a feeling you want to have after every game and a feeling that we haven’t had in a long time. It was good to turn up with everybody in the locker room.”
It was the most points Chicago has scored under head coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.
Moore set a career high with 230 yards and added three touchdowns. According to Next Gen Stats, that was 141 receiving yards over expectation, which is the most since 2018. Moore’s 230 yards were also the second-most by any Bears receiver ever. Fields has a perfect passer rating throwing to Moore this season. He’s completed 27 of 34 pass attempts to Moore for 531 yards and five touchdowns so far.
There was still trepidation after a half that saw Fields throw for three touchdowns and get the Bears out to a 27-3 lead. After all, Fields had three touchdown passes and a perfect passer rating in the first half of last week’s game against the Denver Broncos. In fact, it’s the first time a quarterback has thrown three touchdown passes in the first half in back-to-back games in Bears history. Josh Allen is the only other quarterback this year to throw three touchdowns in a single half and he’s only done it once.
The Bears’ 307 yards of offense in the first half was also their most through the first half of a road game since 1989. It was the first time the Bears have led by 14 or more points at half in back-to-back games since Weeks 10 and 11 of 2018.
The offense picked up where it left off at Soldier Field last week. There was more play action, more designed runs for Fields, more quick decisions. The offensive line, getting Teven Jenkins back (to a degree), proved to be a catalyst, even with center Lucas Patrick exiting the game with a concussion after the third Bears’ possession. Fields found Moore down the field and in the short and intermediate areas. He was throwing the ball where only Moore could get it.
The Bears even called three separate quarterback sneaks on fourth down, this time actually with their 6-foot-3, 230-pound quarterback, and converted all three of them.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy seemed to even bait Washington at one point. The Bears were having tremendous success running the ball with Khalil Herbert in the first half, which helped set up the aforementioned designed runs for Fields himself. Even when both Herbert and running back Travis Homer went down in the second half, Getsy was able to adjust and the Bears held on, seemingly growing together in real time.
“I felt like we’ve grown, personally, me and his relationship,” said Fields of Getsy. “I’m really close with him and his family. I think in these last couple of weeks we’ve found an identity in our offense. That’s always good to have. Once you do have that and once you get guys going and get in rhythm each and every game, it just takes off from there. Hopefully, we can keep this momentum going and take it all the way up to the end of the season.”
Where last week felt like more of a fluke, especially given the fact the Bears surrendered a multi-score lead, Chicago carrying some of that over and showing consistency in this game feels encouraging. They are starting to establish something more sustainable. It wasn’t one step forward and two steps back. This time, the Bears got out to a three-score lead and kept it. They played four quarters of football for perhaps the first time this season.
The offense is developing an identity at the same time the defense is finding theirs. Chicago had the lowest pressure rate of any team coming into the game and it wasn’t particularly close. The defense couldn’t hold onto the lead the Bears got out to in Week 4. But in Week 5, they did, and it was thanks to an increase in pressure from multiple levels of the defense.
Cornerback Greg Stroman Jr. registered a sack as he came screaming into the backfield completely unblocked on a corner blitz. Linebacker T.J. Edwards registered his first sack as a Bear. Chicago finally got a sack from an interior lineman in Rasheem Green. Yannick Ngakoue got his second sack for Chicago.
And on a day when the franchise lost one of its most beloved icons in Dick Butkus, the defense came alive in a fashion the Maestro of Mayhem would have been proud to see. They more than doubled their season total in sacks. Coming into the game, the Bears had recorded just two. By the end of the night, Chicago had sacked Washington quarterback Sam Howell five times as if Butkus himself was out on the field with them.
“We played for him tonight so this one’s for him tonight,” Fields said of the late Dick Butkus. “Glad we got the dub.”
So is the rest of Chicago.
Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.
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