NFC North: 2013 Week 14 DAL at CHI

Alshon JefferyRon T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty ImagesAlshon Jeffery's leaping touchdown just before halftime put the Bears up 24-14.

CHICAGO -- Brandon Marshall pulled in a 14-yard catch in the first quarter, making him and Alshon Jeffery the first Chicago Bears receiving duo to each gain 1,000 yards in a season since 1995.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who can make plays,” receiver Earl Bennett explained following the Bears 45-28 stomping of the Dallas Cowboys. “Once those guys are given the opportunity, the sky’s the limit.”

Marshall and Jeffery proved that against the Cowboys, with the duo combining for 11 catches for 184 yards and a touchdown. They played a major role in the team converting 73 percent of its third-down attempts.

Although Marshall led the Bears with six catches for 100 yards, Jeffery made perhaps the game’s most difficult -- not to mention most exciting -- catch of the night. The play came just 10 seconds before the half when Jeffery jumped to haul in Josh McCown's 25-yard pass in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. The scoring play led to the Bears putting up 10 points on the Cowboys in a matter of one minute and 23 seconds on the way to taking a 24-14 lead into intermission.

Bennett called Jeffery’s TD catch between a pair of Cowboys defenders “crazy,” while cornerback Tim Jennings called the grab “ridiculous.”

Marshall said he expected “a touchdown” as soon as the play was called.

“We got a touchdown. We didn’t know it was going to be so sweet,” Marshall said. “I just embraced him. Held him, [and told him] ‘You’re awesome.’ Me and Earl [Bennett] were on the sideline. Earl brought it up and [Jeffery] had the best deep-ball skill of anybody in the game; maybe even ever. He’s just a freak.”

Jeffery explained the touchdown grab before the half was the “same play we ran against Minnesota” last week, when the receiver reached up high to pull down a 46-yard TD in the third quarter of the team's loss, despite a Vikings defender draped all over him.

“Just throw it up, and make the catch,” Jeffery said. “It’s just something I practice all the time, something we’re always taught. It’s just a natural instinct to keep the ball away from the defender and have strong hands.”

In addition to the sure hands, Jeffery made sure to get both feet down on the ground inbounds.

“His catch was unreal,” said McCown. “I just know those guys will make plays [when the ball is thrown their way]. I trust them all the time.”

With Marshall drawing so much extra attention from defenses, Jeffery has capitalized by destroying opponents in one-on-one situations. But that dynamic has also allowed Chicago’s quarterbacks to spread the ball around to other players such as tight end Martellus Bennett and running back Matt Forte, who combined for 12 grabs for 116 yards and a TD.

During the offseason, Marshall invited Jeffery out to Florida to train in preparation for this season, and the veteran is glad the extra work has paid dividends for the second-year receiver.

Through the first 13 games, Marshall and Jeffery have combined for 159 receptions for 2,283 yards and 15 touchdowns.

“We all knew what [Jeffery] was capable of doing,” Marshall said. “He’s not just helping me out. He’s helping the special teams, defense, the whole organization. He’s just special.”


Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

December, 9, 2013

CHICAGO -- A few quick thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 45-28 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night at Soldier Field.

What it means: Game on for the Detroit Lions in the NFC North title race. The Lions slipped up by losing at Philadelphia on Sunday and opened the door for Chicago to get back into the race. The Bears kicked it open by destroying the Cowboys. The Lions close the season with Baltimore and the New York Giants at home, before playing the finale at Minnesota on Dec. 29. One Lions mistake could lead to the Bears sneaking away with the division if they can maintain momentum.

Take advantage of the smallest mishaps: That's what the home team did in the first half. After Chicago took a 17-14 advantage on Robbie Gould's 27-yard field goal with 1:38 left in the first half, the Dallas Cowboys had three incompletions on the ensuing drive, which allowed the Bears to take possession again with 47 ticks remaining.

Instead of sitting on the three-point lead, the Bears mashed on the gas with Josh McCown hitting Alshon Jeffery -- who was being draped by two defenders -- for a 25-yard touchdown with 17 seconds left to go up 24-14. With the quick score, the Bears went into the locker room at the half with momentum.

What was better for the Bears is they got the ball back to start the second half, and scored on that drive as well to go up 27-14 on a Gould 34-yard field goal.

Potent WRs: Jeffery and Brandon Marshall became the first set of Chicago receivers to gain 1,000 yards apiece since 1995 (Curtis Conway and Jeff Graham). Jeffery entered the game with 70 catches for 1,109 yards, but Marshall needed 10 yards against the Cowboys to reach 1,000.

With Marshall leading the way with 100 yards on six receptions, the duo combined for 184 yards and a TD.

McCown pinpoint accurate: McCown started Monday night's game by connecting on 8 of 10 passes for 145 yards on throws traveling more than 10 yards in the first half. The quarterback's eight deep completions in the first half tied the most McCown had completed in one game.

McCown's play allowed the Bears to reel off 24 points in the first half, which is quite a difference considering the Bears hadn't scored more than 23 points in any of their previous four outings leading into Monday night.

McCown finished with a passer rating of 141.9, completing 27 of 36 passes for 348 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions to go with a rushing TD. He's passed for 1,055 yards over the past three games with eight TDs and only one INT.

What's next: The Chicago Bears take the day off Tuesday before returning to the facilities to begin preparations Wednesday for Sunday's game at Cleveland. The Bears face a short turnaround in the first of back-to-back road games before the Dec. 29 season finale against the Green Bay Packers.

Bears release list of inactives

December, 9, 2013
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears announced their list of inactives for Monday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, and as expected the team will be without quarterback Jay Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs.

Other Bears inactives included safety Sean Cattouse, defensive tackle Christian Tupou, offensie lineman James Brown, offensive tackle Jonathan Scott and rookie defensive end Cornelius Bennett.

The timetable for return for Cutler and Briggs remains uncertain. Cutler returned to the practice field last week, and took part in workouts on Thursday and Friday before the club held him out of Saturday’s session to rest him. Bears coach Marc Trestman said the quarterback didn’t suffer a setback that led to the club holding him out.

But Trestman also declined to give a definitive timeline for Cutler’s return. Cutler has missed the team’s last three games due to a high ankle sprain, while Briggs has missed five consecutive contests because of a fracture in his left shoulder. Trestman said that Cutler will be evaluated prior to Monday night’s game by team doctors, but the team won’t make a decision on how to proceed with the quarterback until Tuesday.

Briggs, meanwhile, was originally expected to miss four-to-six weeks with his injury. But the matchup against the Cowboys will mark the seventh week Briggs has been out of action.