Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals offense found a rhythm too late Sunday, and while the Bengals rallied in the fourth quarter from a hole created by turnovers, it wasn’t enough.
The Chicago Bears took advantage of four turnovers, including three Burrow interceptions, to build a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter and held on for a 20-17 win Sunday at Soldier Field.
Cincinnati (1-1) was coming off an overtime win in the opener and now looks to rebound at Pittsburgh in the AFC North opener next weekend. Here are five takeaways from Sunday’s loss…
1. Offense struggles to get going
A week after Joe Mixon rushed 29 times for 127 yards, the Bengals struggled to get him going and he rushed just 10 times for 28 yards in the first half. Mixon finished with 20 carries for 69 yards and that was the entirety of the team’s rushing stats.
While the running game was flat, Burrow looked uncomfortable until the final seven minutes and ended up holding onto the ball too long at times while the interior offensive line couldn’t contain Chicago’s pass rushers. He was sacked four times and finished with just 206 yards passing and two touchdowns – both in the fourth quarter when he threw for 100 yards despite throwing interceptions on the first three drives of the period. Three of the sacks came in the third quarter as he only attempted five passes. Evan McPherson made another 53-yard field goal to account for the only points of the third quarter.
Burrow told reporters after the game he didn’t recall ever throwing three interceptions in a game before, and he was surprised to realize it happened Sunday.
2. Turnover troubles
The Bears were able to score 13 points off four turnovers, starting with a Tee Higgins fumble that gave them the ball at the Cincinnati 39-yard line.
Cincinnati held them to a field goal after the fumble, but then Burrow threw his first interception on the next drive and Roquan Smith returned it 53 yards for a touchdown and a 17-3 lead with 10:55 left. Burrow was picked off on each of his next two passes. Chicago ended up punting from the Cincinnati 40-yard line on one and settled for a field goal despite getting the ball at the 9-yard line on the other one. That made it 20-3 with 6:43 remaining.
The Bengals have been emphasizing the need to win the turnover battle, as the defense especially has been focused on trying to strip the ball loose for more fumbles, but the Bears had just one turnover and the miscues for the visitors proved to be the difference.
3. Showing some fight
Although the comeback fell short, it’s still a good sign to see the team able to make it close at the end. Burrow finally got the offense moving after the Bears took that 20-3 lead and after gaining 30 yards on three passes, he connected with Ja’Marr Chase on a 42-yard touchdown to make it a 10-point game with 4:39 left.
Linebacker Logan Wilson then gave the ball back to the offense by intercepting Justin Fields at the Bears’ 25-yard line and returning it 18 yards to set up a 7-yard touchdown pass to Higgins on a post route the next play. That ended up being the final score with 3:43 left, as the Bengals had just one timeout left and couldn’t get a stop to give the offense a chance to win the game or send it to overtime.
Trey Hendrickson missed a chance to bring down Fields at the beginning of a 10-yard run on third down, and that first down was key for the Bears being able to run down the clock. The got one more first down just after the two-minute warning and were able to kneel it out.
4. Defense hangs tough
The Bengals allowed their former quarterback, Andy Dalton, to lead the Bears down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive, but that was the only score of the first half and the only offensive touchdown they would manage for the game.
Chicago punted four times and finished with just 206 yards of offense with David Montgomery accounting for just 61 yards on 20 carries a week after rushing for 108 yards in the opener.
At times it seemed the pass rush had disappeared after being a noticeable factor last week, but the Bengals managed three sacks and limited the two Bears quarterbacks to 116 yards passing. Dalton completed 9 of 11 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown but injured his ankle early in the second quarter at the end of a 14-yard run and when he tried to come back the next drive, he still wasn’t right.
Fields finished the game and had 10 carries for 31 yards but completed just 6 of 13 passes for 60 yards and one interception.
5. Lack of discipline early
The Bengals only had four penalties, but they were all on the first two drives defensively.
The first one, a defensive pass interference call, allowed the Bears to keep their opening possession going when cornerback Eli Apple pushed Marquise Goodwin out of bounds before the ball got to him on a Dalton third-down pass. It was a 32-yard penalty to move Chicago into the red zone, and Dalton threw a touchdown pass two plays later.
Cincinnati’s defense had three penalties the next drive, including a taunting call on Vonn Bell getting in Dalton’s face after an incomplete pass. Sam Hubbard then had a roughing the passer penalty and Larry Ogunjobi was flagged for illegal use of hands. Chicago ended up coming up short on a fourth-and-1 at the Cincinnati 32-yard line on that drive.
The Bengals cleaned things up from there and it was a better game for the defense after that.