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Bears

Arkush: Even a victory over winless Browns feels good for 5-10 Bears

Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) tries to elude Cleveland Browns outside linebacker James Burgess (52) in the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) tries to elude Cleveland Browns outside linebacker James Burgess (52) in the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO – As NFL games go, the Bears’ 20-3 victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday was certainly no masterpiece, but it was exactly what the doctor ordered for a bruised and battered bunch once again limping to the finish line of an NFL season.

Coach John Fox summed it up best after the game, saying, “This game is only fun when you win. Whether it’s you guys (media), fans, coaches or players, so it always feels good to win.”

Coming off one of their more disappointing performances of the season Dec. 16 in Detroit, the Bears desperately needed to avoid becoming the only team to lose to the Browns this season, and they showed pretty much from the opening kickoff that was exactly what they intended to do.

While the Bears never trailed and appeared to be in control most of the way Sunday, the game clearly turned on a five-play sequence to start the second half with them leading only 6-3.

On first-and-10 at his own 40-yard line, Mitch Trubisky dropped back to throw and had a pass deflected and intercepted by the player the Browns had to have ahead of the Cleveland-area native Trubisky – No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett – who returned it 37 yards for a touchdown that would have given the Browns the lead.

But defensive end Carl Nassib was lined up offside for the Browns, and the Bears kept the football.

After two Jordan Howard runs netted nothing, on third-and-6 Trubisky threw a perfectly executed screen pass to Benny Cunningham that went for 40 yards, and on first-and-10 from the Browns’ 16, Howard took a handoff to the house for a 13-3 Bears lead, and for all practical purposes the game was over.

They were the five plays that changed Christmas for the Bears and Bears Nation and sent the Browns back to Cleveland with stockings full of coal.

Asked after the game how important it was to take advantage of Nassib’s mistake, Trubisky said, “I stepped in the huddle and said, ‘Second life, here we go.’ All the guys kind of rallied around that. Everyone did their jobs.

“When you get that second chance, you just have to go down, roll with it and get in the end zone.”

While Trubisky’s numbers throwing the ball weren’t special – 14 of 23 for 193 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions and an 87.8 passer rating – the game had his stamp all over it for his leadership and exploits on the ground, where he ran and scrambled for 44 yards and a TD on seven carries.

On the other side of the ball, cornerback Kyle Fuller again stood up to be counted.

“It’s as good a game by a corner as I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Fox said, “but my hat’s off to him because last year was a very frustrating year, especially for him being injured.

“To work like he did this offseason and prepare. He’s the guy that is at the top of the list every week as far as opponent video, as far as time and hours spent on it.

“He had a good understanding of his matchup and some of their splits and routes and what not, but you only do that with a lot of preparation. Real pros do that.”

Obviously, these Bears have disappointed, but at least for a few hours they were determined to not be this year’s Grinch to steal anything from Bears fans, and while a fifth win may not have a huge impact on what comes next, veteran Sam Acho summed up best for his teammates what the day meant to them.

“This is our last home game of the season. The fans have stuck with us through thick and thin. We wanted to come out and make a statement – a lasting memory.

“We got a chance to get the win, which was awesome. And then to hear the fans cheering, throwing snowballs, it was just a blast.”

• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly.com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

“It’s as good a game by a corner as I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Fox said, “but my hat’s off to him because last year was a very frustrating year, especially for him being injured.

“To work like he did this offseason and prepare. He’s the guy that is at the top of the list every week as far as opponent video, as far as time and hours spent on it.

“He had a good understanding of his matchup and some of their splits and routes and what not, but you only do that with a lot of preparation. Real pros do that.”

Obviously, these Bears have disappointed, but at least for a few hours they were determined to not be this year’s Grinch to steal anything from Bears fans, and while a fifth win may not have a huge impact on what comes next, veteran Sam Acho summed up best for his teammates what the day meant to them.

“This is our last home game of the season. The fans have stuck with us through thick and thin. We wanted to come out and make a statement – a lasting memory.

“We got a chance to get the win, which was awesome. And then to hear the fans cheering, throwing snowballs, it was just a blast.”

• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly.com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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