CHICAGO - The Bears didn't need Andy Dalton or Justin Fields to beat the Bengals Sunday at Soldier Field. They simply conjured up the Monsters of the Midway and Mike Ditka's Da Bears to put up a defensive effort that stifled quarterback Joe Burrow's offense in Chicago's 20-17 victory.
A Fields scramble helped. But Burrow nearly pulled it out. After linebacker Logan Wilson picked off Fields to put the ball at the Chicago 9, Burrow ripped off a touchdown pass to wide receiver Tee Higgins to cut the lead to 20-17 with 3:34 left.
The Bengals then had the Bears backed up on 3rd-and-9 and Trey Hendrickson almost hauled him down for a sack. But Fields escaped and slid into the stick for the first down.
Burrow suffered the first multi-interception game of his career and his first career pick-six as the Bengals got hammered by nearly 20 yards in field position. By the time Bears linebacker Roquan Smith ran over Burrow at the end of his 53-yard interception return with 10:55 left, the Bengals had just 162 yards and running back Joe Mixon, off his 127-yard opener, had just 62 yards on 16 carries.
Burrow came into the game with five interceptions in 11 career games, but he was picked on three straight passes in the fourth quarter after not throwing one in 199 straight throws. The last one came when his pocket buckled on the interior rush and linebacker Alec Ogletree was able to grab the batted ball at the Bengals 9. That turned into a field goal with 6:40 left that made it 20-3.
But Burrow got back up and kept firing. With 4:39 left he drilled a 42-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase to cut the lead to 20-10. Then he stood up in the wake of the Wilson pick and sifted the TD to Higgins to finish 17 of 30 for 207 yards.
The Bengals pitched solid defense against both Dalton and Fields. Bears running back David Montgomery, Mount Healthy's own, came in as the NFL's second-leading rusher and got stoned on just 61 yards on 20 carries. Dalton didn't get chased by the Bears fans, but by a balky knee in the middle of the second quarter and Fields, their first-round prize, finished.
Except for the late scramble by Fields it wasn't the Chicago offense that beat the Bengals. Not when their defense allowed 206 yards. Not when Fields went six of 13 and ran for 31 yards.
With the Bengals trailing, 10-3, early in the fourth quarter, Burrow had just completed a 22-yard pass over the middle to his most prolific receiver Sunday, Tyler Boyd. A few plays later, Burrow went back that way, but Smith lined up at middle backer and then drifted and drifted and drifted toward his left and Boyd in the seam and Burrow apparently didn't see him..
One fumble the Bengals couldn't pick up and one the Bears did turned this game around late in the third quarter.
Hendrickson, who was around the ball all day with his 1.5 Bengals sacks, chased down Fields for a sack and when he lost the ball and Wilson was poised to scoop and score. But he couldn't pick it up and Fields recovered it at the Bears 33 and protecting a 7-3 lead.
But the Bengals gave it right back on their first turnover of the season with 4:48 left in the third. Burrow got the Bengals across the 50 when he hit Higgins on a short crossing route but the ball was stripped from behind and it bounced into the arms of Tashaun Gipson and the Bears were in business at the Bengals 39.
And they looked ready to put the game away when cornerback Chidobe Awuzie missed a tackle that would have forced a field goal on third-and-eight when wide receiver Allen Robinson got the first down.
But Fields false started twice and Awuzie forced the field goal this time on third down from the 10 when he jumped to knock the ball away from Robinson in the end zone and the Bengals trailed just 10-3.
A late hit on Burrow ignited the Bengals' first score of the day 8:22 into the third quarter on Evan McPherson's 53-yard field goal that cut it to 7-3. That rescued a tough drive Burrow was sacked three times, one by Khahil Mack on an up-field rush off the edge and one from blitzing linebacker Roquan Smith through the interior. The third one was when Robert Quinn chased Burrow out of bounds and then bumped him, spilling him to the ground and getting the flag.
Check out some of the best action photos of the Bengals Week 2 contest against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
Burrow looked like he had that elusive big play earlier in the drive when he had Higgins running deep down the middle and Higgins got his hand on it and looked like he could haul it in but it bounced away.
The Bengals offense, so efficient last week, was off in a surprising first half against a Bears team that allowed two plays over 60 yards the week before. The Bengals could manage just one play of 14 and Mixon, off his 127-yard opener, couldn't get to 30 yards in the first half.
Dalton played well, but he went to the locker room with a knee injury midway through the second quarter. He killed the Bengals on a pair of long runs and when he slipped on the Bears sideline he came up limping and left after completing nine of 11 for 56 yards.
Dalton hit six of his first seven throws with three killing third-down darts, the last a third-and-five shot to Robinson that Dalton whipped past Awuzie for an 11-yard touchdown pass. On third-and-12 cornerback Eli Apple committed his second pass interference in as many weeks to negate what would have been a punt and the Bears were up five minutes in, 7-0.
After just three penalties last week, the Bengals got three in the first 17 minutes and, like the Apple flag, it hurt. After Kevin Huber pinned the Bears on the seven with a 36-yard punt and a false start backed them up for a second-and-12, Bengals strong safety Vonn Bell came unblocked on a blitz and batted Dalton's pass away. But Dalton lobbied and got them to call a 15-yard taunting on Bell.
The Bengals defense stood up, though, when they stuffed the Bears and Fields on third-and-one and fourth-and-one.
The Bengals drove to the Bears 35 on their first series using a variety of personnel and formations with Mixon rushing four times for 10 yards. In a different look than last week, Burrow was in the empty set much of the drive, including the last three plays that netted nothing. Burrow had to get rid of the first one out-of-bounds, cornerback Jaylon Johnson knocked a short pass away from Higgins and he had no shot on third-and-10 when Mack and Quinn worked a stunt on the left side and Quinn made an immediate sack to put the Bengals out of Evan McPherson's range.
The Bengals' second series also got nothing. It looked promising when Mixon popped off his best run of the day on an eight-yarder off right tackle Riley Reiff to set up a third-and-one from the Bears 43. But safety Eddie Jackson beat Chase's block to throw Mixon for a loss and on fourth-and-two Burrow's quick throw to Higgins on the right perimeter was well defended by cornerback Kindle Vildor.
The third series was more of the same. Mixon got blown up for a three-yard loss on the left side and after Burrow threw a 14-yard sideline pass to Higgins out of his own end zone, left tackle Jonah Williams false started. That forced a third-and-four and when Burrow spread the field and tried to hit Mixon quickly in the slot, he hit Jaylon Johnson in the back of the helmet.
When Hendrickson split his first Bengals sack with fellow edger Sam Hubbard, that got them out of the half down 7-0.