Bears get a break on Myles Garrett’s pick — and take advantage of it

SHARE Bears get a break on Myles Garrett’s pick — and take advantage of it
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Benny Cunningham runs past the Browns on Sunday. (Getty Images)

The sense of dread at Soldier Field — the idea that the Bears actually might lose to the winless Browns — was palpable when defensive end Myles Garrett intercepted a screen pass by quarterback Mitch Trubisky and returned it to the Bears’ 5 on the first play from scrimmage in the second half Sunday. For a moment, the Browns appeared to be on the verge of taking a 10-6 lead.

‘‘I was like, ‘Oh, [bleep],’ ’’ Bears offensive tackle Bobby Massie said.

As fate would have it, however, the Bears were playing a team even better at beating itself than they are. The play was nullified by an offside penalty on defensive end Carl Nassib for lining up in the neutral zone.

It was the kind of silly mistake the Bears usually make, such as when cornerback Kyle Fuller lined up in the neutral zone against the Saints in Week 8. That enabled the Saints to turn a field goal into a touchdown in a 20-12 victory.

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‘‘That’s [a call] that usually we don’t get,’’ Massie said. ‘‘But it was a good call, man. So thankful that [the officials] made it.’’

‘‘I was super-relieved,’’ Bears offensive lineman Brad Sowell said. ‘‘Usually, we’ve been on the wrong end of that all year. It was nice to finally be like, ‘Yeah, we got one on our side.’ ’’

This time, it was the Browns lamenting their mistake.

‘‘That was inexcusable,’’ Browns coach Hue Jackson said. ‘‘Carl will be the first to tell you that. He’s apologizing in the locker room. That was a huge opportunity to get a lead. When you don’t get those plays, the other team is going to turn around and make a play.’’

Most teams, but usually not the Bears. To their credit, however, the Bears didn’t just breathe a sigh of relief that such an error could save them; they took advantage of it.

Three plays after the nullified interception — with Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams bringing yet another blitz on third-and-six from the Bears’ 44 — offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains countered with another screen. This time, Trubisky threw a well-timed pass to running back Benny Cunningham for a 40-yard gain to the Browns’ 16. Running back Jordan Howard, getting a key block from Sowell, scored easily on the next play.

In a span of four plays, the Bears went from nearly being down 10-6 to leading 13-3, a 14-point swing that sparked them to a 20-3 victory in their final home game of the season.

‘‘We knew all week that we had a chance on screens with the way they blitzed and stuff,’’ Sowell said. ‘‘Sure enough, they dialed up a blitz, and we popped it right over the top of them. That was a good call by Dowell.’’

The Bears have struggled offensively, but this was a credit to Loggains. With the Bears missing three starting linemen after Massie left temporarily with a knee injury, Williams dialed up the pressure. And Loggains had the answer. It was a small victory, perhaps, but it was one that made a difference.

On the Bears’ next offensive series, Cunningham gained 22 yards on a third-and-three screen pass, leading to a touchdown that gave them a 20-3 lead.

‘‘Great adjustment at halftime by the coaching staff,’’ Cunningham said. ‘‘[The Browns] gave us a look that we knew we would get. Great poise by Mitch to stay in the pocket, knowing the blitz was coming.’’

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

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