CHICAGO – Cold, cold, cold … and so was the weather.
The Dallas 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.
"We didn't play very well on defense," said head coach Jason Garrett. "No question about that. You give them credit, but we need to make the corrections. Whatever emotion you're talking about, I think we all have. You're disappointed in a lot of things."
Bitterly cold, the game-time temperature was just 8 degrees with a wind chill that felt like minus-9. In fact, it was the coldest regular-season game in 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.
"We lost the game and we played terrible," said Sean Lee, who left the game with a neck injury. "We got dominated. We have to play better and it starts with myself. It's all about execution and we're not executing. We gave up too many big plays tonight."
Chicago 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.
"They made more plays, they handled the conditions better and they came ready to play," said Orlando Scandrick.
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.
"I thought we were doing some good things on offense, but it became one of those ballgames where you had to match serve every time, and we weren't able to do that," Garrett said. "They went up by a score and then by another score and the game got out of hand."
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.
"Their big receivers are good," Garrett said. "They had two really big receivers, a big tight end, they've got a quarterback who does a really good job of reading the coverage and throwing to the right guy and really giving them a chance. It was cold out there tonight, it was windy, I thought he threw the ball very effectively."
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. [embedded_ad]
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.
"We've got to bounce back next week," Lee said. "We still have a lot in front of us. That's what we need to concentrate on."