PRO FOOTBALL

Bears jump on Cowboys early, often

2013-12-09T21:00:00Z 2013-12-18T21:33:04Z Bears jump on Cowboys early, oftenAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
December 09, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO | The Monday Night Football matchup between the Bears and Cowboys had something for everyone, despite your team colors.

You had the league's 31st-ranked defense (Bears) against the worst defense (Cowboys).

You had a Dallas team with 19 of its previous 28 games being decided by seven points or less.

You had Chicago allowing 1,231 rushing yards in its last six games -- an average of 205 ypg.

You had the NFL's No. 1 blocking wide receiver in Chicago's Brandon Marshall, with teammate Jeffery at No. 5.

"People think us wide receivers are all pretty boys who don't like gettin' down and dirty," Marshall said recently. "They're dead wrong. We take pride in it."

The Bears scored 28 unanswered points during one stretch and rolled to a surprising 45-28 win before 56,644 frozen fans at Soldier Field.

One highlight of the night was the Bears retiring Mike Ditka's "89" jersey.

The first tight end voted into the Hall of Fame, Ditka is the only individual in the NFL's modern era to win a league championship with the same team as a player (1963) and coach (1985).

While the Bears have 27 Hall of Famers, "Iron Mike" is only the 14th player to have his number retired by the organization.

"It's a culmination of a career and one of the greatest things you can be honored with," said Ditka, 74. "It's something I didn't anticipate or expect. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

"Go Bears!"

In 11 seasons, Ditka had a 112-68 record that included six NFC Central titles, three NFC Championship games, and a Super Bowl XX victory.

Monday's game featured a windchill of minus-7 degrees at kickoff.

On the first play from scrimmage, the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray broke loose on a 19-yard run and six minutes later, Dallas led 7-0.

Murray's initial rush was the 57th of 10 yards or more allowed by the Bears — an NFL high.

Dallas (7-6) allowed Bears backup quarterback Josh McCown to perform like a seasoned veteran, completing 27 of 36 passes for 348 yards and touchdowns to Earl Bennett, human highlight film Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and Michael Bush.

"I still can't feel my toes," McCown said.

He joined the fun with a 7-yard TD run capped by his flying leap into the end zone.

"We expect great things now from Josh," offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. "He's such a hard worker. He stays late after practice every night. I don't know if he even goes home."

Robbie Gould added three short field goals, the kind he makes blindfolded. Forte rushed for 102 yards, Marshall had six catches for 100 yards and Jeffery five for 84.

"There's a lot of excitement knowing we're back in this (playoff) thing," cornerback Tim Jennings said. "The guys were really juiced up. I know I was.

"It's always great anytime our offense goes out there and just run the clock like they do. As a defense, it gives us a great opportunity to rest."

The Bears held a 13-minute advantage in time of possession.

"I've been here six years and this system is awesome because it gives everybody a chance to make plays," Bennett said.

"Josh continues to elevate his game by leaps. I get to the building by 6:30 (a.m.) and he's already been there an hour or so. And when I leave, he's still there."

Dallas, now 2-5 on the road, got nothing from its passing game with only 144 total yards as Tony Romo threw a pair of meaningless scores.

Murray ran for 146 yards to lead the Cowboys, but was held to 47 the second half.

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