Bears maul Steelers to stay perfect for the season so far
Chicago defence forces five turnovers for Pittsburgh, who end game with first 0-3 start in 13 years
The Chicago Bears pulled away in the final quarter to secure a 40-23 win over Pittsburgh to maintain their unbeaten opening to the new campaign and send the Steelers to their first 0-3 start since 2000.
The Bears defence forced five Pittsburgh turnovers and scored two touchdowns in a wild game that lifted them to 3-0.
"The defence did a great job of keeping us in it and giving us an opportunity," Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler said after throwing for 159 yards and one score.
Cutler provided a signature play in the final quarter when he ran over a Pittsburgh defender to get a first down en route to a drive that put the Bears a decisive 11 points ahead.
"[The team] were all yelling for me to get down when I got back to the huddle. We didn't play well in the second half and I just wanted to make sure I picked it up."
Chicago raced out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and led 24-3 in the second before Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected on a 33-yard touchdown to Antonio Brown to spark a comeback.
Brown also had a one-handed, 21-yard touchdown grab in the third and after Shaun Suisham kicked his third field goal of the game, Pittsburgh had pulled to within 27-23 early in the fourth.
But the Bears sealed it when Earl Bennett made an acrobatic 17-yard catch along the sideline to put the visitors 34-23 ahead and Julius Peppers returned a fumble 42 yards for the final score of the game.
Chicago's Major Wright helped lead the opportunistic defence with a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown, along with a forced fumble. "It's been great, we're playing Bears defence," Wright said. "Takeaways … that's what we practise."
Despite scoring more points than they had in their first two games combined, the Steelers gave the ball away far too much. Roethlisberger lost two fumbles and threw a pair of interceptions.
"We have to take better care of the football," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin lamented. "I'm not going to characterise it in any way other than that."
The New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins also maintained their perfect starts to the season, but the New York Giants and Washington Redskins were left wondering where their first wins will come from after embarrassing defeats.
The Giants, co-hosts of this season's Super Bowl, were thumped 38-0 by the previously winless Carolina Panthers, while the Redskins suffered their first loss at home to the Detroit Lions in almost three-quarters of a century.
The Redskins had not lost at home to the Lions since moving to Washington from Boston in 1937, but their 21-game winning streak came to a shuddering halt with a 27-20 loss. This left the Redskins, who made the play-offs last year with their brilliant rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, at 0-3 for the season, along with the Giants, who won the Super Bowl two seasons ago.
The new season may have just started, but the odds are already against two of the glamour clubs with only three teams since 1990 going on to make the play-offs after starting 0-3. "If you had said we'd start 0-3, we'd all be shocked," Griffin said.
There were no such problems for the Patriots as they cruised to a 23-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Gillette Stadium.
With quarterback Tom Brady calling the shots for his new receivers and throwing for two touchdowns, the Pats coasted to a comfortable win to reach 3-0 for the first time since 2007. "I'd love to get to 4-0," Brady quipped.
Drew Brees, the quarterback for the Saints, threw for three touchdowns in his team's 31-7 romp over the Arizona Cardinals. "This is significant," Brees said. "We're playing better each week and still, offensively I don't feel we have reached our full potential."
Arizona's defensive tackle Dan Williams withdrew from the game after his father was killed in a car accident, while driving to New Orleans to see his son play.
Dion Sims caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill with 38 seconds left to maintain the Dolphins' unbeaten start to the season. Tannehill led a 13-play, 75-yard drive after Atlanta's Matt Bryant missed a 35-yard field goal attempt with 4:46 left to give Miami their first 3-0 start to a season in over a decade.
The San Francisco 49ers, last year's Super Bowl finalists, suffered their second loss in a row, losing 27-7 at home to the Indianapolis Colts.