In a stunning upset on Sunday, the Chicago Bears beat the Pittsburgh Steeler 23-17 in overtime at Soldier Field. It was Chicago’s first win of the season and comes in a tough four-game stretch to open the year.
With running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen deserving the headlines with their big plays that led to the Bears winning, but it was the Bears defensive secondary that had a very impressive game. The secondary, which has been heavily scrutinized during the John Fox era, had one of their best performance if not their best performance against one of the NFL’s best offenses.
The Steelers offense has been regarded as one of the best offenses in all of football as they have featured perennial pro-bowlers at each position on offense starting with the quarterback, running back and wide receiver. Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown have led the offense since 2013 and have put up crazy offensive numbers over that time, on Sunday that was not the case.
On their first play of the game, the Steelers and Roethlisberger attempted to throw downfield to their deep threat wide receiver in Martavis Bryant.
Bryant was wide open, but the pass was just out of his reach. That would be the only deep ball the Steelers to where their wide receivers were not covered.
There were at least two more instances in the first half where the Roethlisberger attempted a deep pass down the sideline, and both times Bears defenders right there with the Pittsburgh wide receivers to defend the pass.
One of the plays, which featured cornerback Marcus Cooper covering Antonio Brown was flagged for pass interference, The referees met and picked up the flag when they determined that Brown was out of bounds when trying to catch the ball. Later in the second quarter, cornerback Prince Amukamara had a nice pass defense against slot receiver Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster.
For a defensive secondary known for giving up the big play late in the game over the years, it was late in the fourth quarter where the secondary came up big.
With a tied score, The Steelers had the last possession of the game with 52 seconds left in regulation and were only able to move the ball 14 yards before letting time expire.
This was huge for a secondary that in years past had given up big plays allowing the opposing team to win. Furthermore, the Steelers offense was unable to move the ball at all in the fourth quarter as their longest drive in the quarter was 44 yards which 37 yards were through the air.
The pass defense numbers for the Bears defense were very noteworthy as Pittsburgh’s longest pass in the game was for 25 yards and that came late in the 4th quarter. They were able to limit receiver Martavis Bryant to just two receptions for 30 yards when just last week Bryant three receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown.
Also limited to an extent, was Antonio Brown who was held to 10 receptions for 110 yards and just a touchdown. He averaged just 11 yards per catch which were his lowest so far this season. This was just only the fourth time in the Steelers last 19 games to where they were held to less than 300 yards on offense as they finished with 282 total yards on offense Sunday.
The Bears running game won the game for the team on Sunday, but it was the defense that kept them in the game as the offense was unable to score any points in the second half.
Going forward, the performance by the defensive secondary is key to note because of just how far they have come since 2015 and just how good they can be for the rest of season. If the secondary can play as good as they did against a high power offense such as the Steelers, it’s hard not to imagine the defense being able to play consistently well against any remaining opponents.
With a Bears offense that has struggled to move the ball, any game is winnable for the team as long as the defense and especially the secondary is up for the task.