Bears earn 24-21 comeback win over Bengals in opener
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter September 8, 2013 2:56PM
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Updated: September 8, 2013 9:37PM
Before the celebration and the game-ball presentation after the Bears’ 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at Soldier Field, Marc Trestman had to make a decision.
“A game-defining moment,” he said.
Trailing by four with 8:32 left in the game, the Bears faced fourth-and-one at the Bengals’ 27-yard line. Trestman could have opted for a field goal — Robbie Gould had made a 58-yarder at the end of the first half — to cut the deficit to one.
But he chose to go for it.
“We were sitting there in a position to close out the game,” he said.
Trestman called a run. Matt Forte went right and bounced outside for eight yards. On the next play, Jay Cutler found Brandon Marshall near the left sideline for a 19-yard touchdown pass.
“That’s what Trestman’s about,” Cutler said. “He’s going to roll the dice. He believes in us on offense.”
The Bears’ defense ensured it would be the last score of the game. It made one final stop to force a punt on a day its cornerbacks forced three turnovers. Charles Tillman had two interceptions, one on the Bengals’ second play of the game.
But Tim Jennings had perhaps the most critical turnover.
Leading by four, the Bengals were in the red zone early in the fourth quarter when Andy Dalton — who went 26-for-33 for 282 yards — found wide receiver Mohamed Sanu for 10 yards. Jennings poked the ball out and recovered it at the 17-yard line.
“We won in a critical situation,” said linebacker Lance Briggs, who gave Trestman the game ball. “When it was most important, our defense got off the field.”
The Bears turned their three turnovers into 14 points, the first seven coming on an eight-yard touchdown catch by tight end Martellus Bennett in the back of the end zone.
He compared wrestling the defender for the ball to fighting for food with his siblings.
“Everyone had a hand in the pot,” he said. “I came out with the chitlins.”
The Bengals countered with a two-yard touchdown catch by star wideout A.J. Green. Later, Green dusted Jennings down the right sideline for a 45-yard score, putting the Bengals up 14-7.
Green had nine catches for 162 yards, all but 33 coming in the first half.
Gould’s team-record 58-yard field goal cut the deficit to four at halftime.
The Bears and Bengals traded 80-yard touchdown drives to start the third quarter.
Cutler, who went 21-for-33 for 242 yards, kept the scoring drive alive by scrambling on third-and-seven and finding Bennett down the right sideline for 30 yards.
“I think that changed the tempo of the whole offense,” Bennett said.
Forte, who had 50 rushing yards on 19 carries and 41 receiving yards on four catches, dove in for a one-yard touchdown.
“I think we have a chance to be one of the best, if not the best, offense in the league,” Forte said, “if we continue to practice hard and get better out there.”