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Bears score three straight TDs, hold on for 38-31 win

Updated: December 15, 2013 8:56PM

CLEVELAND — The storm swirled outside Halas Hall and a bit inside, too, the Jay-or-Josh controversy seeping in like a draft through the baseboards this week.

“We had all this stuff happening around the building,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “Inside we’re like, ‘We’re in a playoff race right now.”

They still are, too, after Cutler, tabbed with the “Mr. Fourth Quarter” moniker months ago, led the Bears to 21 points in the final frame Sunday to beat the Browns, 38-31, at snowy FirstEnergy Stadium.

At 8-6, the Bears are one-half game ahead of the Lions, who host the Ravens on Monday night and own the NFC North tie-breaker against Chicago.

“As I told the team, we played well enough (Sunday), because we won, to put ourselves in position to compete for the division in the last two games,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “But we gotta play better to win it.”

That starts with the quarterback, whose fourth-quarter magic — Cutler completed 22-of-31 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns on the game — made up for first-half struggles in his first full game since Oct. 10.

He ended his first drive with an end-zone interception to Tashaun Gipson, who caught a tip from teammate T.J. Ward.

Gipson got Cutler in the second quarter, too, catching an overthrown pass and returning it 44 yards for a touchdown.

“He just threw a terrible ball,” said wideout Brandon Marshall, who had a team-high six catches for 95 yards,

The Bears’ self-immolation continued on the next drive, when two penalties took them from attempting a fourth-and-1 to making a field goal to being forced to punt.

Marshall’s 5-yard catch tied the game at 10 just before halftime, and cornerback Zack Bowman’s 43-yard interception return gave the Bears a seven-point, third-quarter lead.

After the Browns’ Edwin Baker, playing his first career game after being signed Tuesday, ran for a two-yard score to tie it at 17, Ward recovered Martellus Bennnett’s fumble and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown.

That’s where the Bears stood when, four minutes into the fourth quarter, Alshon Jeffery caught a 45-yard jump-ball touchdown at the front right pylon despite being sandwiched by two Browns defenders.

“I was just thinking, ‘Make a play,’” Jeffery said. “I make my quarterback look good, and he makes me look good.”

Trestman called it “a huge play for us.”

With star Joe Haden out with a hip injury, Browns cornerbacks committed 35 yards of penalties during the Bears’ six-play, 95-yard scoring drive.

Matt Forte — who had 24 rushes for 127 yards — ran for 22 yards on the Bears’ next scoring drive, capped by Earl Bennett’s 4-yard catch.

Michael Bush’s 40-yard run put them up 14 with 2:17 to play, enabling them to withstand Josh Gordon’s 43-yard scoring catch with under a minute left.

The NFL’s leading receiver had only three catches for 67 yards.

“We had a whole quarter to put seven-plus on the board, and we did,” left tackle Jermon Bushrod said. “Our defense made several stops.

“That’s how you draw it up.”


TWITTER: @patrickfinley

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