CLEVELAND — Earl Bennett is the fifth wheel of the Bears’ weapons, but he has shown a knack for making a play at the most opportune time.
Bennett caught the go-ahead touchdown with 5:41 remaining on Sunday, putting the Bears up 31-24 on the Browns in a 38-31 victory putting Chicago atop the division.
“We read it out and Jay and I were on the same page,” he said of the touchdown catch from his college teammate, Jay Cutler, in the quarterback’s highly anticipated return to the lineup.
“That’s why you practice,” Bennett said. “You go through different scenarios like that, and we made it count.”
Bennett made it count in a similar situation earlier this season. In Week 3, Cutler found Bennett for a touchdown with 5:48 left — almost the identical time as Sunday’s score — to put the Steelers away.
Sunday’s touchdown had help from teammates to put Bennett in position. The Bears started off with great field position, thanks to Devin Hester’s 21-yard punt return. Matt Forte eventually got it to the Cleveland’s 2-yard line, but then was stopped for a loss of two on the next play.
Facing third-and-goal, the Bears needed to get six yards, and the play looked similar to Bennett’s touchdown that tied the game in the first quarter against Dallas last week.
Bennett went in motion, right to left, with Jeffery wide right and Marshall bunched next to Bennett. Marshall attracted the eyes of safety Tashaun Gipson, who already had two interceptions. Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson kept focus on Forte out of the backfield. That opened things up for the Bears’ slot receiver to make his play.
Bennett ran a quick post route, beating corner Buster Skrine on his change of direction to catch the short touchdown pass.
“Great, great, great group of guys around me. I can’t speak enough about the offensive line and Earl making big catches today,” Cutler said.
For a player that missed most of the preseason with a concussion and took a pay cut, Bennett has often (and understandably) been lost in the discussion about the Bears’ explosive offense, but he came through again in a crucial situation.
“We were resilient. That’s one of the words we talked about this week, that we knew we’d have to face some type of adversity,” he said. “Just got to be resilient and continue to fight, and we were able to.”
Defense steps up: For the first time in more than two months, the Bears held a team to less than 100 yards rushing. The defense also kept the Browns to a rate of 3-for-9 on third down. “I thought we were able to keep everything in front of us, make them go the distance and make the stops when we needed to,” coach Marc Trestman said. “It was a good day, a sunny day for our run defense.”
Not the best play call: The Bears had a third-and-8 from the Browns’ 9-yard line at the start of the second quarter and the call was for a screen pass to Jeffery, who was stopped five yards short of the goal line. “I was disappointed in one drive, we had a hook screen and we didn’t get to the second layer,” Trestman said. “I would have liked to have given the guys a better call. I don’t think I made the best call.”