Nuggets from the Bears’ 16-14 escape in Denver
DENVER — The Bears gave another strong performance to keep them in it for a crazy 16-14 win over the Broncos, but were wheezing at the end.
In the 90-degree heat, with the sun beating directly on their sideline and the altitude clearly wearing them down, they struggled to manage a paltry Denver offense that had mustered just three points through three quarters.
“There were some times that they were tired,” said Matt Nagy, who called a timeout so Khalil Mack could catch his breath before the Broncos’ fourth-down try from the 3-yard line. “You could feel it.”
It was reminiscent of how the Bears sputtered in the heat and humidity against the Dolphins before losing in overtime.
While the Broncos eventually were in the shade as the sun went down behind their side of the stadium, the Bears never got that benefit. Instead, they had staffers hold up screened panels to create shade, but one player said, “That didn’t help. Made it like a hotbox.”
The Bears needed a big takeaway in their opener against the Packers, but never got it. In the Broncos game, cornerback Kyle Fuller came through with a big one.
Fuller seemed to put the game in the Bears’ control when he shut down a would-be scoring drive by intercepting Joe Flacco at the 3-yard line. The Broncos had driven from their own 24-yard line with an eye on tying the game at 13.
But Fuller picked up Emmanuel Sanders as he bolted for the right sideline, stepped in front of him to tip the ball and caught the deflection for the 16th interception of his career.
“That [expletive], he knows how to make plays, man,” Mack said. “He’s a baller, man. He’s one of the best in the league, and you saw it on that play.”
The Bears lost starting defensive tackle Bilal Nichols to a right hand injury in the second quarter, and he did not return. He had it in a cast after the game.
They went without backup swing tackle Rashaad Coward again despite him practicing during the week and saying he was ready to return. He has been out a month since suffering a bruised elbow in a preseason game.
Nose tackle Eddie Goldman was questionable after injuring an oblique muscle in practice, but was healthy enough to start in Denver.
Tight end carousel
Nagy made some interesting moves at tight end, keeping it creative even with the return of Trey Burton from a groin injury. He used four tight ends in the first quarter, including sending backup guard Ted Larsen out as a blocker. The fifth, Bradley Sowell, entered early in the second.
Adam Shaheen led the group with three catches on three targets for 24 yards, and Ben Braunecker caught two for 24.
Burton nearly caught a touchdown pass late in the third quarter, but Broncos safety Will Parks broke it up in the end zone. Burton finished with two catches for 5 yards in his season debut.