Arkush: Bears looked and played like playoff team

Matt Forte celebrates his third quarter touchdown against Dallas Monday, December 9, 2013 at Soldier Field. (Lathan Goumas - lgoumas@shawmedia.com)

Just a few weeks back, Dallas Cowboys owner and erstwhile general manager Jerry Jones announced that he believed this edition of his team represented some of his best work as GM.

Really? I wonder what his bad work looks like?

In an absolute must-win situation to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Bears showed up on Monday night and gave their best performance of the season, a 45-28 defeat of the Cowboys.

The domination was so complete that the Bears had rolled up 27 first downs to Dallas’ 13 at the end of the third quarter, outgaining them 403–185, converting 7 of 9 third-down opportunities while running up a 35-14 lead.

Thirty-six seconds into the fourth quarter, the Bears scored again on a 17-yard Josh McCown to Michael Bush pass that stuck a fork in the Cowboys and sent the 56,000–plus Bears faithful who’d braved 10 degrees below zero wind chills scurrying for their car heaters.

The closest thing to a defense Dallas put up all night long was forcing the Bears to execute long, time-consuming drives every time they touched the ball in the first half.

The Bears' four first-half possessions started with a 12-play, 78-yard drive that took 7:27 to tie the game at 7–7.

Their second possession was a 10-play, 65-yard drive for a 14–7 lead.

The Cowboys did stop the Bears on their third possession after a nine-play, 68-yard drive took just 3:49 off the clock and ended in a 27–yard Robbie Gould field goal that made the score 17–14.

Then came the turning point of the game. The Bears defense forced the Cowboys to punt for just the second time in the game and gave the ball back to the offense at its own 40 with just 47 seconds remaining.

McCown got the Bears to the endzone in just 37 seconds on five plays, with the dagger coming on a 25-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery, who mustered another near–unbelievable catch in the back corner of the South endzone.

The Bears' domination was so complete that, with 3:47 remaining, they had eight possessions on the evening and scored on all eight with five touchdowns and three field goals.

The only real drama was the halftime ceremonies, during which Mike Ditka’s No. 89 was retired with the promise it would be the last Bears number ever put out to pasture.

If you expected Da Coach to shed a tear, he didn’t.

The focus of the tribute was a succession of many of the most notable Bears to have played for Ditka offering their congratulations on video tributes on the Jumbotrons in Soldier Field.

By the time Kyle Orton came on for some cleanup work, with just over three minutes remaining, the Cowboys had long ago quit and there were no more than a few thousand fans left in the stands.

Those who stayed were left to wonder if they’d witnessed the beginning of a Bears drive to the playoffs and the emergence of McCown as a hot quarterback just too good to sit down, or the meeting of two mediocre teams in miserable conditions with the home club holding a huge edge in their own house.

Most would agree the Bears were just too good on this evening to shed doubt on their offensive firepower or character.

This was an evening when it would have been easy for everyone to quit and roll over and play dead to get in out of the cold as soon as possible.

Instead, the Bears looked and played like a playoff team and left with their chances to be just that very much alive.

• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at harkush@shawmedia.com.

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