By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Damned be records and draft positioning in a victorious locker room. This prideful Bears bunch wasn’t going to bring anything short of its best effort Sunday.READ MORE: Chicago Police Union President Urges Aldermen To Repeal Mayor's Vaccine Mandate For City Workers; 'This Tyrant At The Top Needs To Stop What She’s Doing'
Staring at the NFL’s abyss, the Bears played ticked off and pounded the hapless 49ers by a 26-6 score at Soldier Field. Then, they retreated to a warm locker room and celebrated. There’s no taste sweeter than victory.
The Bears, now 3-9, were fed up with losing. They weren’t giving up on winning.
“Tired of the results, tired of putting everything you got out there and not getting the results that we want,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said.
Hicks led a dominant defensive effort, posting 10 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd returned to the field with two sacks, including a safety to cap the victory. Defensively, the Bears held the 49ers to 147 net yards — 2.7 yards per play — and six passing yards.
After looking lost for 28 minutes, the Bears decided to incorporate the forward pass into the game. Matt Barkley recorded his first completion with under two minutes remaining in the first half, then drove the Bears downfield. Rookie running back Jordan Howard scored his first of three touchdowns just before the half to give Chicago a 7-6 lead.
The Bears showed they’re better than the No. 2 pick. That’s for the 49ers (1-11) or the Browns — whoever is slightly less awful than the other.
Sunday’s play of the game came in the first quarter, when the 49ers blocked a Bears punt and returned it to the end zone. They excessively celebrated and were called for a 15-yard penalty, only then to realize they didn’t score a touchdown. The Niners didn’t sniff the end zone the rest of the afternoon, and the Bears never looked back after claiming the lead.
Come April, the 49ers will be positioned to find a quarterback other than Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert — the future face of their franchise — because of this meaningful loss. On this day, the Bears seem determined to play their way out of the top five picks.
Really, tanking wasn’t coming from this Bears team. They played Sunday’s game with an astonishing 16 players on injury reserve. Losses would only come by a young team being overmatched — something possible in the final four games — but not because of effort lacking.READ MORE: CBS 2 Vault: Serial Killer John Wayne Gacy Talks Exclusively With Walter Jacobson In 1992 Series Of Special Reports
The Bears were hungry for victory.
“Hats off to those guys in the locker room,” coach John Fox said. “A lot of the young guys had to answer the bell and they’ve done an outstanding job.”
After four years of waiting, Barkley finally has a chance to be an NFL starting quarterback. He left Soldier Field with the game ball. Josh Bellamy wanted to redeem himself after a drop that cost the Bears a win last week. He posted four catches for 93 yards Sunday.
Then there’s the non-football level. Two weeks ago, Floyd left MetLife Stadium in an ambulance after a frightening injury. He returned to the field Sunday and posted a pair of sacks, walking off Soldier Field with a win. Howard wore custom cleats to honor his late father, Doc, who died nine years ago of pulmonary fibrosis.
He wasn’t alone rushing for those three touchdowns.
“I definitely had him out there with me in spirit,” Howard said.
The Bears are fighting for their future with each game. They were mathematically eliminated Sunday, but nobody thought of that in the postgame locker room. It was a group thrilled with marked progress toward becoming a better football team.
You better believe nobody in that locker room thought once about DeShone Kizer, Deshaun Watson or Mitch Trubisky when Barkley was slinging the ball through the snow. Nobody considered Myles Garrett or Jonathan Allen’s potential when the defense was swarming Kaepernick.
This team has every excuse in the world available and refuses to make one. The Bears just want to keep fighting until the end.
Victory was what the Bears desired when they arrived at Soldier Field.
“We wanted this today,” Hicks said, “and we got it.”MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Rain Totals From Sunday And Monday Storms