LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears were in trouble, leading by nine with the Rams in prime position following a big interception return by Joe Johnson III on an overthrown ball by Mitchell Trubisky.
On the next play, with Los Angeles at the 27, Kyle Fuller picked off a wobbly pass by Jared Goff. In a flash, the threat was over and the Bears could breathe a little easier.
That sequence late in the third quarter pretty much summed up the game.
A spectacular defense delivered a prime-time performance, bailing out a struggling offense while carrying the NFC North leaders to a 15-6 victory over the NFC West champion Rams on Sunday.
“We had the interception, right, and then the very next play our defense got an interception, and that’s what you’re talking about, and so it circled right back to the next-play mentality,” coach Matt Nagy said Monday.
“That’s what I thought, we talked about that all week — next play, next play, next play — and that was a pure example last night from both sides. On defense when you’re playing well, OK, next play. On offense, you’re not playing as well, next play.”
The next step could be securing a playoff spot. With three games to go, the Bears (9-4) are closing in on their first postseason appearance since the 2010 team won the NFC North.
They bounced back from a wild overtime loss at the New York Giants to win for the sixth time in seven games, and they figure to be tested this week when the Packers visit. Though Green Bay has a losing record and fired coach Mike McCarthy on Dec. 2, the NFL’s oldest rivalry has been one-sided in recent years.
The Bears have dropped five straight and nine of 10 against the Packers, including a 24-23 gut punch in the opener at Lambeau Field. Green Bay rallied from a 20-0 deficit, with an injured Aaron Rodgers leading the way.
But the Bears just took out the team that came in with the best record in the NFL. And they did it with their quarterback struggling, thanks to their dominant defense.
“It definitely took us to another level going against the best team in the league,” linebacker Leonard Floyd said. “It just gave us that extra motivation to go into next week.”
The Bears simply swarmed Goff, who threw a career-high four interceptions. He was also sacked three times and posted a career-low 19.1 rating.
Chicago gave Todd Gurley no room to run, holding the NFL’s leading rusher to a season-low 28 yards on 11 carries.
And the Bears limited an offense that ranked No. 2 to 214 yards.
“What I’ll say is we just had it (Sunday night),” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “We had a lot of heart, we had a lot of focus and we pulled it out.”
The Bears needed it on a night when Trubisky had too many passes sail on him. He finished 16 of 30 for 110 yards and three interceptions after missing the previous two games because of a right shoulder injury.
“There were times I was just trying to do too much, make a play,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s something I was doing mentally from sitting out for two weeks, just coming out here trying to put on a show, make big plays. I need to go in there, do my job.”
Nagy insisted it wasn’t a step back for the Bears quarterback.
“Not when you win,” he said. “He made some plays when we needed to. For him to be able to keep learning, there’s gonna be some bumps in the road. You can’t throw for 350 yards every game. That’s just not gonna happen in this offense in Year 1. That’s not gonna happen.”
NOTE: Nagy said the Bears were still evaluating CB Bryce Callahan, who left with a left foot injury late in the first half.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP