The Chicago Bears’ 20-9 victory had been in the books for almost 45 minutes Sunday and the music from the visiting locker room at Allegiant Stadium still was bumping. Tight end Jesper Horsted was the first player to meet with reporters and had to speak up a little in the news conference room to be heard over the booming bass.
“You can hear it through like five walls,” Horsted said with a chuckle.
At the time, running back Damien Williams was still inside the postgame party, immersed in the celebration of a road win over the Las Vegas Raiders that required all sorts of toughness and unity.
“Man, my blood is still going,” Williams said. “I feel like I did more in the locker room (just now) than I did on the field, just all that dancing we were doing.”
A little while later, safety Eddie Jackson acknowledged the added meaning in the upset, which not only gave the Bears their first winning streak of 2021 and pushed them above .500, but also carried an extra revenge factor for some players after the Raiders beat the Bears in London in 2019.
“I don’t have a disco in here, but let’s all start dancing!” Gruden said, gyrating in sarcastic fashion.
Jackson smirked Sunday.
“Of course we still remember that,” he said.
So, yeah, maybe that was part of the reason the music remained loud and stayed on for quite a while as the Bears danced their way out of the desert. Wild things tend to happen in Las Vegas. And while the Bears’ win near the Strip wasn’t worthy of a massive marquee, it was, without question, an energizing triumph for a team that played with obvious focus and toughness.
Defensively, the Bears were particularly strong again, holding the Raiders to 252 total yards, less than two-thirds of what they were averaging coming into the day.
Safety DeAndre-Houston Carson provided a big third-quarter takeaway with an athletic interception of Derek Carr’s deep ball to Zay Jones. The Bears stood strong with a pair of fourth-down stops as well, including a fourth-and-1 hold in the first half with the Raiders in scoring territory. Khalil Mack hammered running back Josh Jacobs for no gain on that play. Mack later sacked Carr for a loss of 8 in the second quarter and took him down again on a critical 2-point conversion attempt with 9 minutes, 1 second remaining.
So, yes, Mack’s fingerprints were all over the win against the team that traded him away in 2018.
“It was amazing,” Jackson said. “He made them regret not wanting to keep him.
“Mack’s our leader. He’s had games like this. And we fuel off that.”
Through five games, the Bears defense seems fully fueled, backing up its preseason vow to re-establish itself as one of the best in the league.
With coordinator Sean Desai at the controls and a horde of players making timely contributions, the Bears appear to be affirming their legitimacy. They added three more sacks to their season total with safety Tashaun Gipson and outside linebacker Trevis Gipson getting to Carr along with Mack.
“It’s the type of guys we have,” Jackson said. “We continue to fight. We don’t play the blame game. We don’t point fingers. When we mess up something, we clean it up.”
Where clutch contributions were needed Sunday, clutch contributions were made.
Take Williams and Khalil Herbert, who combined to rush for 139 yards in the absence of top back David Montgomery. Williams scored from 4 yards out in the second quarter, bouncing a run outside to the left, then putting a nasty spin move on Raiders cornerback Amik Robertson.
Rookie quarterback Justin Fields, meanwhile, battled through physical discomfort to steady the offense. Fields had the wind knocked out of him when he was smashed by safety Johnathan Abram on a first-quarter scramble. He later had to leave the game for three plays with a left knee injury.
But the rookie continued to battle. His first career touchdown pass went to Horsted early in the second quarter, a 2-yard off-script dart fired past Robertson’s turned back and into Horsted’s hands.
“I just kind of made eye contact with him as he was scrambling and slowed (my route) down a little,” Horsted said. “Justin just trusted me enough to put the ball up.”
Fields also led a crucial drive in the fourth quarter, a 10-play, 57-yard march that ended with Cairo Santos’ 46-yard field goal immediately after the Raiders had closed within 14-9. Fields’ biggest completion on that drive was a 13-yard fastball to Darnell Mooney to convert on third-and-12 against a picket-fence coverage designed to keep the Bears short of the first-down line.
“That’s just a timing throw,” Fields said.
On the topic of timing, the Bears’ resurgence in their last two wins has been reassuring. Coach Matt Nagy emerged from Club Dub after Sunday’s victory and expressed appreciation for the way his team has jelled.
“It’s a brotherhood right now and it’s tight,” Nagy said. “These guys love each other, and when you love each other, man, you play hard for each other.”
With the vibe in the visiting locker room, it was hard to fathom that only 14 days earlier the Bears had left Cleveland battered and dispirited but promising to dig deep for answers. Sunday’s win was a testament to their resolve and determination.
“We talked about it all week long. This was going to be a fistfight in a back alley,” Nagy said. “And (coincidentally) we’re out here (in Vegas) with that big heavyweight fight last night. And I think you could kind of feel how today was going to go.
“Our players just really stepped up to the plate when they needed to at big-time moments,”
At the end of the afternoon, the Bears had their chance to step into that exhilarating dance party with the music blasting.
Said Horsted: “You’ve got guys like me who usually don’t get in that circle going in and throwing some moves. Everyone is very excited because it was a great game in all phases.”
“We were partying in there,” Herbert added. “There’s an energy to this kind of win.”
A big contingent of Chicago Bears fans arrived in Las Vegas this weekend, and they made their presence known Sunday at Allegiant Stadium as Raiders quarterback Derek Carr took the snap on fourth-and-5 late in the fourth quarter.
As long as rookie quarterback Justin Fields is still learning on the fly, it never hurts the Chicago Bears to have someone else who can shoulder the burden.
Fields threw for just 111 yards in Sunday’s 20-9 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders, but the defense turned in its second straight dominant effort and the running game continued to thrive even without the injured David Montgomery.