‘Relief’: Bears halt franchise-record losing streak

LANDOVER, Md. — Four days after squandering a three-touchdown lead to mark their 14th straight loss, the Chicago Bears ended the longest losing streak in franchise history with a 40-20 walloping of the Washington Commanders on Thursday.

Nearly an entire year — 346 days, to be exact — had passed since Chicago’s last victory. After an 0-4 start amid off-field drama and poor on-field performances, just how badly did the Bears need this win?

“Pretty bad, I’m not going to lie,” tight end Cole Kmet said. “I think the emotion I felt literally until … the clock hit zero was relief. It’s been a long time coming to get this first win. We’ve got a lot of talent; we’ve just got to put it together. These types of performances can carry over, but we have to be able to execute and be in sync as a group.”

Only a handful of players remain from the last Bears team to score 40 points, in a 41-17 win against Jacksonville in Week 16 of the 2020 season. Wide receiver Darnell Mooney, who was a rookie that season, hardly remembered the outcome given how many losses the Bears accumulated from that time on.

What did feel familiar was the rut the Bears offense found itself in after a blazing start. Chicago scored a touchdown or field goal on every drive in the first half, sparked by two TD receptions from DJ Moore, and built a 24-point lead by the end of the second quarter. Quarterback Justin Fields became the first Bears player since the 1970 merger to throw for three touchdowns in the first half of back-to-back games.

A third quarter that featured two drives for Chicago, both of which resulted in punts while Washington scored a touchdown and field goal, was the motivation the Bears used to avoid another letdown.

“We’re not allowing this to happen again,” Mooney said. “We felt that power of another team having that against us, and we don’t want to feel that again.”

Moore’s monster night prevented another disappointment and helped the Bears seal a win on the road. The 25-year-old receiver caught eight passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns, the second-most receiving yards in a game in Bears history.

His fourth-quarter touchdown was the difference maker for Chicago. Moore ran a curl route, which Washington cornerback Kendall Fuller unsuccessfully jumped, and took a short reception 56 yards down the visitors sideline to the end zone.

As Fields watched his No. 1 wideout extend his yards after the catch to 141 — the most by any Bears player since ESPN began tracking YAC in 2006 — the quarterback categorized that moment of closing out the game as a “sigh of relief.”

“I think we just had to reset,” Fields said. “Of course, the drive where we had a false start, you know, everybody’s kind of jumping around a little bit. But I just went over to the guys and just said, ‘Calm down. We’re in a great position, the defense is going to go out there and do their thing.’ They did. They got a stop, and you know, of course, when DJ made that catch and run, it was pretty much game over by then. A heck of a play, great catch, great protection up front and executed it well.”

Moore was a key part of the trade package Chicago received from the Carolina Panthers in exchange for the No. 1 overall pick in March. In five games with the Bears, Moore has:

• 531 receiving yards and five touchdowns, which is more than any Bears wide receiver accumulated during the 2022 season.

• Accounted for 47% of the Bears’ receiving yards this season, the highest of any player in the NFL.

• Every tight-window reception for the Bears this season, per Next Gen Stats. Fields is 8-of-11 for 137 yards and three TDs to Moore on tight-window throws and 0-of-8 to all other Bears on those plays.

It has been a while since Chicago had this much offense generated by one player. Moore became the first Bears player with 200 yards and three touchdowns from scrimmage in game since Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton in 1979, a type of performance the receiver said he didn’t see coming.

“No, this morning I was nervous,” Moore said. “Out of this world nervous, so I guess that was my body telling me we were about to go off. I look forward to having some more nervous days before games.”

The Bears averaged 7.0 yards per play on a night when Fields threw for 282 yards and four touchdowns, coupled with another strong display from Chicago’s running game (178 yards).

Days after starting to show their strengths as a team, it’s clear to some what the Bears believe is their offensive identity.

“Get the ball to DJ, man,” Mooney said. “Get the ball to DJ. Really, get the ball to DJ, and like I’ve said before, allow us to have an opportunity to make that catch, not make that catch, whatever. Put the weight on our shoulders and just give us the opportunity to make that play.”

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