Bears grind out 17-9 win over Rams
In a game only Brian Urlacher (and teammates on a four-game losing streak) could love, the Chicago Bears ground out a 17-9 victory Sunday over the hapless St. Louis Rams.
Jay Cutler was held to 12 yards passing the final three quarters. Still, Chicago (5-7) was in control the entire way after building a 10-0 first quarter lead.
“That’s Chicago Bears football,” defensive tackle Tommie Harris said. “That’s what Bears’ football has been built on, is defense.”
After a 35-yard pass interference penalty and two long passes — 48 yards to Devin Hester and 71 yards to Earl Bennett — spotted Chicago to that 10-0 lead, the Bears switched to a Kyle Orton rookie-year offense. The Bears ran 30 times and passed 11 the final three quarters.
Bears coach Lovie Smith said it had nothing to do with their injured linebacker calling for a return to a defense-and-running identity. He said it was all about protecting a December lead against a 1-11 Rams team that posed little threat to his defense.
“For us, out in the elements on a day like today, you need to be able to run the football, and that’s what we did,” Smith said. “No more than that.”
Cutler, who “dinged” his passing hand in the second quarter, threw only 17 times, less than half his season average, as the Bears returned to a proven formula. The Bears are 7-0 when throwing 20 or fewer passes since 2000, with the past four of those being December games.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game, but we pulled it out,” said Cutler, whose 3-yard TD pass to Bennett made it 17-6 with 1:23 left in the third quarter.
The Bears never tried to be pretty.
“The way our defense was playing, we didn’t feel we had to make big plays or throw down the field,” Cutler said.
Steven Jackson, the NFL’s second-leading rusher, had 112 yards for St. Louis, but the Rams couldn’t get in the end zone. Their next-best player was kicker Josh Brown (3-for-3 on field goals, including from 48 and 50 yards).
“You don’t always want your field-goal kicker to have a good game; you want to score some points,” Rams tight end Randy McMichael said.
The Bears grew greedy for points once, but that stopped after their failed fake field goal on fourth-and-4 from the Rams’ 10 in the second quarter.
After that, it was all about defense and running the ball.
The defense started with Chicago holding the Rams to 2-for-14 on third down.
“Win third down and you are off the field,” safety Kevin Payne said.
The running started slowly, with Matt Forte losing a fumble on the second play of the game.
“I gave the ball up,” Forte said. “As a running back, you can’t ever do that.”
Nor did the Bears run particularly well against the NFL’s No. 28-rated rush defense. The Bears averaged only 3.2 yards on their 38 runs, but Forte grew more assertive late and finished with his best game since the season opener, gaining 91 yards on 24 carries.
“When the hole is not there, you need to make a hole for yourself and run more aggressively,” Forte said. “I was definitely more decisive today.”
The Bears will continue to ask their running game to carry more of the load in their last two home games against Green Bay and Detroit.
“It has to,” Cutler said. “The wind starts picking up. We’re going to get some snow. It’s going to get harder and harder to throw the ball. We’ve got to have a downhill running attack. We’ve got to be able to get the corner on some of these runs. Tonight was a step in the right direction.”
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 email@example.com.