The Chicago Bears (7-6) kept their playoff hopes alive in beating the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys (6-7), 31-24, on Thursday night to kick off Week 14. Here's what we learned from Chicago's win:
- With Cowboys grasping fruitlessly behind him, Mitchell Trubisky faked and weaved and ran 23 yards to the end zone. As a smile ran across his face, he crossed the goal line for his fourth total touchdown of a triumphant Thursday night. A wonderful evening was had by Trubisky with 244 yards and three touchdown passes as the Bears prolonged their playoff hopes and sent the spiraling Cowboys further into despair with a 31-24 win at Soldier Field. The Bears showed resilience in rallying back from an ominous opening drive in which they allowed the Cowboys to march 75 yards in 17 plays for a seven-point lead. Trubisky and the Bears answered in head-scratching fashion with a horrendous interception from the much-maligned signal-caller. Thereafter, though, Chicago scored on its next four possessions with Trubisky turning in his finest outing of the season a week after his previous best game of the season. The Bears ran strong, while the Cowboys' tackling was weak. Trubisky caught fire and the Bears won their third in a row, while Dak Prescott and the Cowboys went silent following their epic first drive as part of a 24-point Chicago run that left the Dallas sideline marked by long faces and no answers.
The Bears (7-6) still need plenty of assistance to return to the playoffs and the Cowboys (6-7) are still in first in the NFC East. But as both teams are still brimming with questions needing answers, the Bears' largest quandary -- that of whether Trubisky is the franchise quarterback going forward -- received at the very least a positive reply from Trubisky. Unlike much of the season previously, Trubisky made good throws into smaller windows, led the Bears to third-down conversions (7-of-12) and used his fleet feet to carry him to a season-high 63 rushing yards and the 23-yard exclamation point of a touchdown. At the very least, the Bears have a little life left in them this season and so does Trubisky as the franchise QB.
- It was an odyssey of an opening drive, as the Cowboys began the game and marched methodically for 17 plays, 75 yards and eight minutes and 57 seconds. Dallas converted four third downs, Prescott had four completions for 41 yards and Ezekiel Elliott had 33 yards in eight carries, culminating the opening slog with a two-yard touchdown run. It had all the makings of setting an ominous tone for the Bears and a victorious one for the Cowboys. Instead, the Cowboys offense went silent through the remainder of the first half, waking only after the game was too far from reach, done and gone. Prescott was 4-for-6 for 41 yards on the opening drive, but completed just two of his next seven passes to end the first half. When all had concluded, Prescott's line of 27-for-49 for 334 yards and a score looked fine and dandy. However, the true tale of the night was that the Cowboys offense was shut down by the Bears defense following a first drive that could have marked the beginning of an emphatic and much-needed Dallas W. Unbelievable as it may be, the Cowboys will end Week 14 no worse than tied for first in the NFC East with the Eagles (5-7 entering Monday night against the Giants). But the calls to end Jason Garrett's days as the Cowboys' head coach will carry on. In many ways, Thursday night was emblematic of this season for the Cowboys. It was a promising start after that march to begin things, but when all was concluded there were more questions than answers and no certainties available for Dallas.
- Warranted or not, amid the Bears' travails, the narrative surrounding the Chicago defense has been one that, while still solid or good, it is not the ferocious bunch of beasts that once more returned monsters to the Midway as it was last season. However, as the offense has struggled it has no doubt added pressure to be perfect to the defensive unit. Coming into Week 14, the Bears were the No. 7 defense in the league, No. 4 in scoring. Very good, but not great statistically speaking. There have also been key injuries, such as the loss of defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and on Thursday there were more as cornerback Prince Amukamara was inactive and linebacker and leading tackler Roquan Smith was injured on the first drive and did not return. But against the No. 1 offense in the NFL, the Bears stood their ground, held off the Cowboys and allowed their beleaguered quarterback to find his way to the best game of his season. After three quarters, the Bears had held the Cowboys to seven points and 184 yards (no points and 109 yards after the first drive). Khalil Mack had a huge sack of Prescott in which he took him down by his right foot. Nick Kwiatkoski continued his terrific play filling in for Danny Trevathan with a team-high 10 tackles. Kyle Fuller (seven tackles, two passes defended) and Kevin Pierre-Louis (six tackles, two passes defended, one tackle for loss) had some big plays, too, in a game in which the Bears lost the turnover battle, 2-0, but came away victorious. When it ended and the Cowboys had 24 points and 408 yards of offense, the Bears hardly looked like their former selves. But Chicago's defense is still an outstanding one.
- On an unfortunate Thursday night for the Cowboys, Elliott surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight season and for the third time in his four-year career. Not long after, Amari Cooper rambled past the 1,000-yard mark for his second straight season as well (his fourth in five seasons). In another loss for Dallas, these statistical milestones are really just footnotes. Perhaps more so, they lend further credence to all the Cowboys' quandaries of why all this talent is put on display and yet victories are so seldom. Elliott had 81 yards and a pair of touchdowns on Thursday, while Cooper had six grabs for 83 yards and a score. Michael Gallup had a game-best 109 yards and, with 905 on the season, is closing in on 1,000 yards just the same. So far this is the underlying tale of the Cowboys. All these yards, all this talent and yet the team is still left searching for answers and victories.
- As the world of the Cowboys turns and the fate of Jason Garrett is as hot a topic as ever, the job security of kicker Brett Maher might well have been decided on this Chicago night. Maher's first field-goal offering was a 42-yard attempt that was pushed right, his league-high 10th miss falling into the abyss of job insecurity. While Maher's miscues haven't garnered the same amount of headlines as his coach, his days in Dallas are likely ending sooner. Maher ended up converting later in the game to draw the Cowboys within 24-14, but he then promptly booted the ensuing kickoff out of bounds. Maher's 10 misses are more than any kicker in a single season over the last four years, according to NFL Research. Chances are an 11th miss won't happen in a Cowboys uniform.
If anyone can relate to Maher's scrutiny, it was his counterpart Eddy Pineiro in Chicago, who's missed five field goals in 20 attempts. During pregame, NFL Network tuned in just in time for Pineiro to horribly miss a practice kick wide left by another area code. Perhaps that explained the added jubilation from Pineiro when he converted a 36-yarder in the first half. He made all of his kicks in the Bears' win and finds himself in a far better situation than Maher.
- In a season longing for offensive highlights and positives, Bears receiver Allen Robinson has quietly provided a rather sterling campaign overlooked due to the offense's struggles overall. Robinson has very quietly accumulated 76 catches for 898 yards and seven touchdowns following Thursday's two-touchdown showing. All in all, Robinson's five catches for 48 yards weren't huge, but he drew penalties, as well (including a huge defensive holding call on third and nine to open the second half that led to an Anthony Miller TD catch). As other avenues opened up for the Bears offense, Robinson was still there as he's been all season and his two touchdowns were huge. His first -- a 5-yarder in the second quarter -- evened the score and was the answer the Bears had to have after their immediate retort was a Trubisky interception. Robinson's second score was an 8-yard tally with just 10 seconds left in the first half. A contentious 10-point lead grew into a commanding 17-point cushion. As the Bears offense found some new life, the one constant remained sterling all the same.
- While the trials and tribulations of Mitchell Trubisky have seemingly been the season-long Chicago storyline, the offense as a whole has struggled. That wasn't the case in their latest win. With Trey Burton out for the year, the tight end position has offered little to nothing, but against the Cowboys, J.P. Holtz (three catches for 56 yards) and Jesper Horsted (four catches for 36 yards) offered options and produced some big plays. Having come onto the scene with so much promise, running back David Montgomery looks to be rounding into form and the young man rumbled to 86 yards on 20 carries that didn't come close to telling the tale of him carrying Cowboys for extra yards. Anthony Miller has flashed brilliance and did so a bit more with a touchdown catch. This was Mitch's big night, but he had a lot of help that's long been absent.