Sometimes, you just have to win a football game.
Nobody awards style points when reading the standings, and once a game’s in the record books, nobody looks back to see who was hurt or how many minutes everybody played.
The Bears' 24-10 win over the New York Jets on Sunday was one of those games. After blowing solid second half leads the past two weeks to the Dolphins and Patriots, the Bears needed a win in the worst way to continue to progress in their Ryan Pace-Matt Nagy makeover.
While the game was close enough until the final seven minutes, when the Bears went up 24-10 and the Jets had managed just 163 yards of offense, you never really had the feeling that the Bears were in trouble.
What we will remember is that the Bears were able to claim a key win without their best player, Khalil Mack, and one of their most dangerous offensive weapons in Allen Robinson.
Even without Mack, the Bears defense had its best day of the season statistically while giving their MVP candidate a day off to rest and hopefully get back to full health.
Without Robinson, head coach Matt Nagy relied on quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s legs as the QB had another productive day on the ground, rushing six times for 51 yards. Trubisky also spread the ball around through the air to Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Josh Bellamy, Trey Burton and Kevin White, while hitting running back Tarik Cohen just once on a short screen and watching it turn into a 70-yard catch-and-run TD.
The hope now is Mack and Robinson will take big steps forward in healing their wounded ankle and groin, respectively, making the Bears even tougher as the schedule strengthens in a few weeks.
Perhaps most importantly, the Bears found some semblance of a missing ground game with Jordan Howard getting 22 carries for 81 yards and a touchdown and taking the game over in the fourth quarter after the Jets had scored to make it 17-10 with 11 minutes to play.
Nagy described what Howard and the running game accomplished after the game, saying, “I thought that this was like the true definition of persistence over resistance for him, and for our offensive line.
“We know we've got to get better with our running backs and with our offensive line. Take the quarterback runs out of it. We've got to get better in the run game. So what I liked was he had a bunch of runs there where he kept chewing up a couple yards here or there, you weren't really feeling it.
“And then, boom, he popped it in four-minute-type mode, that 24-yard run. And that's refreshing for him; it's refreshing for the line; it's refreshing for us, and I was proud of him.”
The team and the ground game did suffer a significant loss, though, as Kyle Long went down with what appeared to be a fairly serious foot injury to the same leg that required surgery two offseasons ago.
Long is far and away the Bears' best offensive lineman, and it certainly didn’t look good as he was unable to leave the field under his own power before he was taken to the locker room on a cart.
Trubisky talked afterwards about what it could mean if Long is seriously injured.
“For sure that's my guy. He's always had my back, and can't say enough about Kyle and how much he loves this organization and the game of football.
“To see a guy go down like that, it hurts, and we just try to pick him up and rally behind him in any way we can.”
To do so, the Bears will have to play much better going forward than they did Sunday. But for the moment, the 24-hour rule is in effect.
For one day they were good enough, leaving us to enjoy their handiwork first, and then begin to wonder how much better they can get?
CBS broadcaster Tony Romo called the game and anointed the Bears a playoff team in the closing minutes.
Clearly they aren’t there yet, but they found a way to keep the door open to getting there.