The Chicago Bears jumped out to a big early lead and held off a furious second-half comeback attempt by the Pittsburgh Steelers en route to the 40-23 road win on Sunday Night Football.
Marc Trestman's team moved to 3-0 with the impressive win at Heinz Field. Meanwhile, Mike Tomlin continued to move in the opposite direction, as he saw his boys drop to 0-3 on the year despite out-gaining the Bears 459-258 in total yards.
Teams going in opposite directions: • Bears improve to 3-0 for 3rd time in last 20 years. • Steelers start 0-3 for 1st time since 2000.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 23, 2013
That's not a good sign:
Steelers are 0-3 for 1st time since 2000. Only 3 of 115 teams that started 0-3 have made the playoffs since 1990.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 23, 2013
The Steelers had three first-half turnovers that led to 14 points on the other side of the field, and the Bears jumped out to a commanding 24-10 lead heading into the half.
Pittsburgh climbed back into the game on the back of Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown and eventually cut the lead to 27-23 with over 10 minutes to go in the fourth. But Jay Cutler led a quick touchdown drive in response, and Lance Briggs sacked Roethlisberger on the subsequent drive, forcing a fumble and allowing Julius Peppers to rumble in for a touchdown to cap off the victory.
The Bears defense finished with five takeaways and two touchdowns.
Roethlisberger completed 26 of 41 of his throws (63.4 percent) for 406 yards and two scores to Antonio Brown, who hauled in 196 yards himself. But the Bears made the big defensive plays when necessary, and Big Ben finished with two interceptions.
Matt Forte carried much of the load for Chicago offensively, tallying 111 total yards and a first-half touchdown.
The Steelers defense put forth an admirable effort, and it wasn't close to as bad as the "40" on the scoreboard might indicate, but the offense put it in too many difficult positions.
In addition to Chicago's two defensive touchdowns, it had two scoring drives under 20 yards and one that went just 51.
The Bears defense is still very scary in ways. Any team playing them better strap it up. They are the class of the NFC North to this point— Scott Bischoff (@Bischoff_Scott) September 23, 2013
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears: B
It was a pretty underwhelming performance from Cutler, who threw for just 159 yards and completed a meager 5.3 yards per attempt.
Still, while those numbers don't really explode off the stat sheet, Cutler managed the game well. He didn't turn the ball over, injected some necessary fourth-quarter life back into the Bears with a truck stick of Steelers safety Robert Golden and made a gorgeous late touchdown throw to Earl Bennett to seal the victory.
It was an uneven performance, but a winning performance for Cutler.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: C+
How would you grade Big Ben's night?
Roethlisberger was shaky in the first half. He had two turnovers and overthrew an open Emmanuel Sanders on what likely would have been a long touchdown.
He reversed that fortune in the second half, however, leading three long scoring drives and orchestrating the comeback attempt with an essentially nonexistent running game.
Nevertheless, two more turnovers in the fourth quarter quickly killed any hopes of a victory. It's hard to be mad at 406 yards on an efficient 9.9 yards per attempt, but four turnovers from your QB simply can't happen.
Chicago Bears Defense: A
Ho-hum. Five takeaways, two touchdowns.
The Bears gave up a good amount of yards, but they managed to do what they always do and showcased its perfect bend-but-don't-break mettle.
Trestman's high-powered offense has gotten a lot of attention lately, but it was a vintage performance from this defense that led to the road win.
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: A
I'll just let Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke sum it up:
!!!!!!!!!!!!!— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) September 23, 2013
Burke, of course, was referring to Brown's insane one-handed grab in the back of the end zone to help bring the Steelers within seven late in the third quarter.
Brown looked nearly unstoppable on Sunday night. He was constantly open, and both of his touchdown grabs were spectacular. He deserves zero blame after his spectacular performance.