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‘We definitely made a statement’: Bears bully Rams in 15-6 victory

Cornerback Prince Amukamara stood in the end zone with his back to his teammates, who bunched together to perform the Bears’ latest celebration gimmick: the bouquet toss.

After linebacker Roquan Smith’s second-quarter interception in the Bears’ 15-6 victory Sunday against the Rams at Soldier Field, Amukamara lofted the ball into the air. His teammates fought for it like they were at a wedding. Defensive end Jonathan Bullard caught it, and the players sprinted off the field, elated.

There’s an easy joke in there — somewhere — about the game deciding whether the Bears would be the bridesmaid and not the bride. It wouldn’t be accurate, though. The Bears haven’t won a playoff game since the 2010 season. They’ve been nowhere near the wedding party.

That’s what made the victory, the defining one of the Matt Nagy era, potentially culture-shifting.

Bears tackle Bradley Sowell celebrates after catching a touchdown. | Nam Y. Huh/AP photo

Bears tackle Bradley Sowell celebrates after catching a touchdown. | Nam Y. Huh/AP photo

‘‘I feel like we definitely made a statement,’’ said cornerback Kyle Fuller, who had his seventh interception, tying him for the NFL lead.

The Bears belong.

They belong in first place atop the NFC North with a 9-4 record. And they belong in the conversation with the best teams in the conference, alongside the Rams and Saints.

‘‘I felt it [Saturday] night at the hotel, and I felt it throughout the week,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘There was a looseness to our guys. The stage wasn’t gonna be too big for them.’’

Because it wasn’t, Bears fans are allowed to dream — not just about the playoffs but about how far the team can go in them.

To get there, quarterback Mitch Trubisky will have to be better. In his first game back after missing two with an injured right shoulder, Trubisky was inaccurate. He completed 16 of 30 passes for 110 yards with three interceptions and a
career-low 33.3 passer rating.

The Bears saved him by solving their biggest riddle of the season: the running game. Jordan Howard gained a season-high 101 yards on 19 carries, and Tarik Cohen added 69 yards on nine rushes. The Bears ran against a Rams defense playing soft coverage. Howard’s physicality set the tone early.

‘‘We can play with anybody, and our defense can shut the top offenses down,’’ Howard said.

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The Bears’ defense did just that, holding Rams quarterback Jared Goff to a career-low 19.1 passer rating and intercepting him four times.

Trubisky threw an interception on the Bears’ first drive, sailing a pass over receiver Josh Bellamy that was intercepted by cornerback Marcus Peters at the Rams’ 37. He returned the ball 48 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the Bears’ 15. The Bears’ defense allowed only six yards on three plays, however, and Greg Zuerlein kicked a 27-yard field goal.

The Bears matched that with a 39-yard field goal by Cody Parkey late in the first quarter.

Smith intercepted Goff about four minutes into the second quarter, returning the ball 22 yards to the Rams’ 4. The Bears went backward, though, because of two penalties and settled for a 31-yard field goal by Parkey.

The Rams used trickery to tie the score. On fourth-and-seven from their 28, punter Johnny Hekker took the snap, ran right and threw a short pass to tight end Gerald Everett for a first down. The Rams finished the drive with a 50-yard field goal by Zuerlein, and the teams were tied at the half.

That didn’t last long. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman pushed past center John Sullivan and sacked Goff for a safety on the second play of the second half. The Bears then fielded the free kick and began their only touchdown march of the night.

On third-and-goal from the 2, Nagy ran out a similar formation to the ‘‘Freezer’’ play that resulted in defensive lineman Akiem Hicks scoring his first touchdown run last week against the Giants.

Trubisky faked a handoff to Hicks and threw to backup tackle Bradley Sowell, who was in the game as an eligible receiver. That play, named ‘‘Santa’s Sleigh,’’ gave the Bears a 15-6 lead.

‘‘We needed a play, so we gave it to the playmaker,’’ a joking Sowell said.

Those were the final points of the game. Trubisky and Goff threw interceptions on back-to-back plays in the third quarter, and each team’s kicker missed a field-goal attempt in the fourth.

When it was over, the Bears had their signature victory of 2018.

‘‘It’s so powerful for our guys now because it helps us grow with confidence,’’ Nagy said.