Cold, cold cold … and so was the weather.
The Dallas Cowboys defense looked frozen at times, simply no match for a Bears offense that came into the game ranked eighth in the league. Chicago scored on all eight of its possessions, aside from a kneel down at the end, on their way to a dominating 45-28 victory.
Bitterly cold, the game-time temperature was just 8 degrees with a wind chill of minus-7. In fact, it was the coldest regular-season game in Dallas Cowboys history, second only to the famed Ice Bowl in the 1967 NFL Championship when Dallas played at Green Bay with the thermometer reading minus-13.
Of course, it’s hard to tell if that played much of a factor in the Cowboys’ ineptness. Dallas has seen a patchwork defense of no-name free agents and rookies hold their own recently, the team winning three of its last four games, but it all caught up to them tonight.
The Bears had their way with the Cowboys, racking up 490 yards of total offense to just 328 for Dallas, also owning the time of possession, 36:38 to 23:22.
Chicago Bears backup quarterback Josh McCown completed 27-of-36 passes for 348 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery torched the Cowboys secondary, finishing with 100 and 84 receiving yards, respectively.
Running back Matt Forte was virtually unstoppable as well, rushing for 102 yards on 20 carries, while adding another 84 receiving yards off of five catches.
The Cowboys ground game actually enjoyed a stellar night, the team rushing for 198 yards overall with DeMarco Murray carrying the ball 18 times for 146 yards. But, it just wasn’t enough with the defense unable to do its part. In the air, Tony Romo was good on 11 of his 20 pass attempts, three of which went for touchdowns, but totaled just 104 yards. No Cowboys receiver caught more than two passes in the game.
Making matters worse, two players the Cowboys were happy to have back in the lineup were unable to finish the game. Return man extraordinaire Dwayne Harris reinjured his hamstring while Sean Lee suffered a neck injury, both leaving in the third quarter.
The first quarter was dominated by extended scoring drives for each team with Dallas actually looking strong on its opening possession. After Harris returned the kickoff out to the Dallas 25, Murray carried his team down the field in 12 plays, running the ball six times for 52 yards, before Romo eventually capped the drive with a 2-yard pass to Bryant for a 7-0 lead.
But the Bears answered, reeling off a 12-play series of their own, traveling 78 yards mainly through the air. McCown had connections of 11, 15, 7 and 14 yards with Forte rushing three times for 20 yards. Chicago finally scored when McCown found a wide open Earl Bennett in the end zone to even things ups, 7-7.
The second quarter saw more of the same as each team again exchanged long drives, although the Bears were next on the board after a 10-play, 65-yard series that saw McCown provide all the damage needed. After hitting Marshall on passes of 20 and 15 yards, as well as an 11-yarder to Jeffery, the quarterback scrambled 10 yards for a first down to the Cowboys 10-yard line, then three plays later, went the final 7 yards with a run up the middle, diving into the end zone for the 14-7 advantage.
Dallas responded with a seven-play, 68-yard drive that evened the score again, Murray running five times for 33 yards with Witten stiff-arming his way across the goal line on a 10-yard touchdown pass. The grab marked his seventh of the year, which ties the second most for his career in a single season, equaling his 2007 effort. He recorded nine scores in 2010.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys could do little to stop the Bears passing attack. Chicago kicked a 27-yard field goal on its next possession, then when Dallas couldn’t run out the clock with 1:27 left in the first half, the Bears got the ball again with 47 seconds to play.
That was plenty of time. McCown hit Forte for nine yards, Jeffery for seven and then Marshall for 19 to set Chicago up with first-and-10 at the Dallas 25-yard line. With 17 seconds left, McCown threw pass to the back, right corner of the end zone, where Jeffery made a sensational catch, hauling in the toss over B.W. Webb and Jeff Heath while keeping both feet in bounds for the score.
Chicago then had the luxury of the first series of the second half and quickly added another three points, Robbie Gould splitting the uprights from 34 yards out.
That drive saw Orlando Scandrick drop a potential interception in the end zone, which was then followed on the next Bears possession by Bruce Carter not taking advantage of a pick opportunity as well. Then, even worse, Sterling Moore did actually corral a bobbled ball for what appeared to be an interception, only to have it called back when Brandon Carr was called for defensive holding.
Given those gifts, Chicago took advantage and tacked on another touchdown, as Forte caught a pass from 4 yards out. The Bears then went for 2 with Marshall catching McCown’s offering to up the lead to 35-14.
Which soon enough became 42-14. The Cowboys, having driven to the Chicago 41, decided to go for it on fourth down, the first time they’ve done so all year, only to have Romo have to throw the ball away almost immediately when a defender came in untouched.
Chicago then needed only three plays to reach paydirt, Michael Bush taking a pass from McCown 17 yards for the score, their run of consecutive possessions putting points on the board up to seven.
The Cowboys managed to reach the end zone again, as Dallas went 69 yards in eight plays, doing so primarily on the ground, even though they faced such a deficit, content to let the clock run. Romo threw a pass to Cole Beasley, who made a nice catch for the touchdown, but it was far too little, too late.
Chicago tacked on another field goal, just because they could, the Cowboys then officially throwing in the towel by sending out Kyle Orton to play quarterback for his first action of the year. The backup did manage to lead the team to another touchdown, rookie Joseph Randle earning his second score of the season.
Finally, the chilly night came to a merciful end, Dallas losing 45-28. Because the Eagles defeated the Lions, Dallas dropped into second place in the NFC East and will now face the 6-6-1 Packers at home next Sunday.
CHICAGO – A share of the NFC East lead left the grasp of the Dallas Cowboys a day ago as the Eagles took care of business and went to 8-5 as snow poured down Sunday against the Lions.
The 7-5 Cowboys have a chance to get back atop the division in the frigid conditions of Chicago with a Monday Night Football matchup against the 6-6 Bears, who are also fighting to get atop their division.
Here are the gut feelings for Dallas Cowboy writers Eatman, Kavner and Helman.
Eatman: I think it’s normal to look at another team like the Bears and get caught up in what they do well. Guys like Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte and then factor in the cold and the playing conditions and it sometimes seems unfathomable for this Cowboys to win this game in this stadium in this month. But the Bears are 6-6 too and if you remember back earlier this year, they had a couple of wins in the final seconds or they should be a lot worse than 6-6. Obviously they did enough to win them but my point is, this team can get beat no matter the team or the conditions. I think the Cowboys are better and they grind out a win. I see Jason Witten playing well and the return of Sean Lee will lead to more third-and-long situations. I see Selvie with two sacks. It’ll be close but I like Dallas, 23-19.
Kavner: If the Giants game a few weeks ago seemed sloppy, this one should take that to another level. With temperatures nearing the single digits and wind being a factor as well Monday in Chicago, it’s not going to be the prettiest offensive football game. That’s despite three of the best receivers in football taking the field in Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. I expect a lot of running when the wind’s against each team and a lot of quick passes with a few back shoulder fades mixed in when it’s behind them, which Bryant will score on. I predict Jeffery ends up the game’s leading receiver, Marshall finds the end zone, but DeMarco Murray gets going and J.J. Wilcox secures a game-sealing pick as the Cowboys keep pace in the NFC East and leave chilly Chicago with a 21-17 win.
Helman: It’s encouraging to think the Cowboys are just two weeks removed from snagging a road win in harsh conditions. But this trip to Chicago feels like a different animal, as far as I’m concerned. The Bears are much more balanced than the Giants or Raiders, with a top-notch running back and two hard-to-handle wide receivers. They don’t defend the run well, and I think the Cowboys will take advantage of that. I’m calling for DeMarco Murray and Joseph Randle to both find the end zone. I think Chicago’s weapons on offense are too much, though. Sean Lee’s return should help keep Forte in check, but I look for Brandon Marshall to have a big day in a close Bears win.
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When: Monday, December 9th, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. (Dallas time)
Where: Soldier Field | Chicago
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