Denver 17, Chicago 15
When: 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, November 22, 2015
Where: Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois
CHICAGO -- The seeds of Denver's 17-15 victory Sunday over Chicago in quarterback Brock Osweiler's NFL starting debut apparently were planted a night earlier when the Broncos' charter plane spent two hours circling O'Hare before landing in a snowstorm.
Well, at least that was what several of them pointed to as a bonding moment for a team that had lost two straight games and was going on the road with its regular starting quarterback, Peyton Manning, sitting at home injured.
Coach Gary Kubiak even joked he might work a regular delay into the travel schedule. Better yet, if he can orchestrate a running game that produces 170 rushing yards (102 in 21 carries by Ronnie Hillman) and a young quarterback who can avoid any mistakes.
Osweiler, who has spent his entire four-year career as Manning's backup, completed 20 of 27 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns and a passer rating of 127.1, a figure Manning, the future Hall of Famer, had not reached in exactly 52 weeks.
"Today is not about me," Osweiler said. "Today is 100 percent about this team and coaching staff. We played great defense, we didn't turn the ball over, and we ran the heck out of the football."
The only problem the 6-foot-8 Osweiler appeared to be avoiding a strong Chicago pass rush. He was sacked five times, compared to just 15 sacks of Manning in nine games. But Manning also had thrown 17 interceptions, and Osweiler threw none.
"The list of things I've learned behind Peyton is endless," Osweiler said. "I was comfortable. I really was, from the very first snap."
A fast start didn't hurt. Osweiler drove the Broncos 74 yards to a touchdown in four plays on their first possession, and the Bears never caught up. The touchdown was a 48-yard pass play from Osweiler to Demaryius Thomas.
"Any time you can start the game like we did on the first drive is huge," Osweiler said.
The game was not decided, however, until only 24 seconds remained when the Bears, who failed to score a point on two excellent opportunities earlier in the fourth quarter, got a two-yard touchdown run from Jeremy Langford, who then was stopped attempting to run in for a two-point PAT.
Denver's victory ended a two-game losing streak and left the Broncos with an 8-2 record and still in strong contention for a first-round playoff bye in the AFC. Chicago, which had won two in a row, dropped to 4-6 and now is only a game ahead of last-place Detroit in the NFC North.
Kubiak would not address whether the injured Manning might be ready for next Sunday's game against undefeated New England.
Bears coach John Fox, who was fired as the Denver coach after the 2014 season, might have regrets over one of Chicago's failed four-quarter opportunities. With Denver ahead, 17-9 and 10 minutes remaining, the Bears had second-and-goal at the Broncos 4-yard line. Three straight passes by Jay Cutler fell incomplete when a field goal on fourth down might have been the prudent call, considering the time remaining, since Chicago needed to score twice to win.
"You know, we hadn't made many trips down to the end zone," Fox said. "We hadn't scored touchdowns. It had been kind of a field goal game. At that point in the game, we felt that was going to be maybe our last opportunity. So we were aggressive and came up short."
As it turned out, of course, the Bears had two more opportunities. The first ended at the Denver 33-yard line when Cutler was sacked on first down by Von Miller and lost a fumble. The second ended when Langford was stopped on the two-point try.
Considering Chicago's trouble with the running game all day, the conversion call seemed odd; the Bears running backs had just 57 yards rushing on 22 attempts.
"Anytime you don't get it done, there is going to be second-guessing," Cutler said. "You look back and think what you could have done differently . . . At the end of the day, we gave ourselves a chance to win at the end, but we just have to find a way to just make it happen."
NOTES: Chicago, also short at the position, lost running back Ka'Deem Carey for the game with a concussion after a third-quarter hit. ... The Bears played the entire game without running back Matt Forte (knee) for the third consecutive game and without wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (groin, shoulder) who returned from his injuries earlier in the season but now has missed five games this year. ... The Broncos missed linebacker DeMarcus Ware (back), out for the second consecutive game. Ware, who averaged 12.7 sacks a year for his previous 10 NFL seasons, leads the team with 6 1/2 sacks. ... QB Brock Osweiler was the 44th starting quarterback in the Broncos' history but only the 14th among the 44 who were drafted by Denver.
Top Game Performances
Team Stats Summary
Chicago will play their next game on the road against Green Bay. The Bears have a W/L % of .400 after a win and .400 after a loss.
Denver will play their next game at home against New England. The Broncos have a W/L % of .857 after a win and .667 after a loss.