With two of the Top 10 defenses in the NFL, Sunday night's Houston Texans-Chicago Bears game at a rainy, windy and sloppy Soldier Field was expected to be a low-scoring affair. The game would not disappoint, as the two teams would combine for six turnovers, 13 punts and just 464 yards of total offense as the Texans used their opportunistic defense and rode Arian Foster to a 13-6 win over the Bears to improve to 8-1 for the first time in franchise history.
As the wind swirled, and rain poured down, the opening kick provided a glimpse of how the night would go when Texans return specialist Keshawn Martin fumbled, which Bears linebacker Blake Costanzo would recover at Houston's 19-yard line. Martin would be ruled down by contact, however, and the Texans would go three-and-out on their first series of downs.
The Bears have been one of the league's most opportunistic defenses, entering Sunday night with a NFL-best +16 turnover margin. On their first offensive play, however, it was a former Bears who would get in on the turnover creation action. After quarterback Jay Cutler had dumped the ball off to tight end Kellen Davis, safety Daniel Manning, who spent his first five seasons in the NFL in Chicago, knocked the ball to the turf, with the ball bouncing into the hands of inside linebacker Tim Dobbins, who returned the fumble 32 yards to the Bears' 28-yard line. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Texans bench pushed the offense back to the Bears' 43-yard line, with Arian Foster and Andre Johnson powering a 10-play, 41-yard drive that ended with Shayne Graham opening the scoring with a 20-yard field goal.
[Winners/losers: Another loss unlikely to get Andy Reid fired]
Houston and Chicago would then take turns turning the ball over.
A promising Bears drive ended when Texans safety Glover Quin forced running back Michael Bush to fumble after Bush had converted a fourth-and-1 play from the Houston 43-yard line. Six plays later, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub's pass intended for Martin was intercepted by Bears cornerback Tim Jennings, who had entered Sunday with an NFL-best six interceptions. Cutler returned the favor when his pass intended for Davis was intercepted by Manning, who was spotted by NBC cameras being congratulated by a few of his former defensive teammates, including middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Just 78 seconds later, Schaub was once again intercepted by Jennings, who nearly had a pick-six but was ruled down by contact at the Texans' 38-yard line. Thanks to Jennings' interception, the Bears were able to even the score at three when Robbie Gould drilled a 51-yard field goal through the wind and rain.
Two possessions later, the Texans taking a left-handed approach to their running game would allow them to take the lead for good.
After an 11-yard connection from Schaub to Johnson, Foster broke off two runs, both to the left, for 27 yards. No. 2 running back Justin Forsett added a 25-yard run to the left side to set the Texans up with a first-and-goal from the Bears' 3-yard line. Foster would gain 1 yard on a first down, and on second down, would make a diving catch of a Schaub pass for a 2-yard touchdown that gave Houston a 10-3 lead with 4:21 to play in the first half.
One of the game's most important plays of the game would occur on the Bears' next possession. Facing a third-and-9 from midfield, Cutler stepped up in the pocket to avoid the rush before delivering a pass over the middle to Devin Hester, who would turn and run down to the Texans' 8-yard line for a 42-yard play. However, Cutler was ruled to have crossed the line of scrimmage before releasing the ball. Adding injury to insult, Cutler was hit in the head and neck area by linebacker Tim Dobbins, who was flagged for unnecessary roughness. The two penalties would offset, and Dobbins is likely to be fined by the NFL for the hit, but the Bears would ultimately face larger ramifications from the play.
Cutler would remain in the game for seven plays, scrambling for 11 yards on the following play before throwing a drive-killing interception to Kareem Jackson, Cutler's second interception of the night. However, concussion symptoms would emerge for Cutler during halftime and he would be replaced by Jason Campbell for the second half.
Campbell would be involved in the longest offensive play of the game, hooking up with Brandon Marshall for 45 yards to set up a 24-yard field goal by Gould with two minutes to play in the third quarter. The Bears were in position to add more points on the following possession, driving down to the Texans' 30-yard line before a 48-yard attempt by Gould hit the left upright, preserving Houston's four-point with just under 12 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. After the two offenses exchanged three-and-outs, the Texans got a 42-yard field goal by Graham to extend their lead and close the scoring at 13-6.
On a night where the defense dominated, Foster was the offensive star of the night, carrying the ball 29 times for 102 yards, reaching the century mark for the fifth time in nine games this season. With 872 yards on the season, Foster is now third in the NFL in rushing, trailing Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (1,128) and Marshawn Lynch (1,005) of the Seattle Seahawks, and his 10 rushing scores remain the most in the league in 2012. Marshall was the top offensive player for the Bears, catching a game-high eight passes for 107 yards on the night.
At 8-1, and a perfect 4-0 away from Reliant Stadium, the Texans remain a full two games ahead of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South. Houston hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars next Sunday before embarking on a three-game road trip that takes it to the Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots. For the now 7-2 Bears, they're a game ahead of the idle Green Bay Packers and will travel to face the 6-2-1 San Francisco 49ers next Monday night. Like Cutler and the Bears, the 49ers lost starting quarterback Alex Smith to a concussion in the first half of their 24-24 tie with the St. Louis Rams, which could set up a Jason Campbell vs. Colin Kaepernick match-up on ESPN next Monday night.
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