8:30 PM ET, September 22, 2013
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
PITTSBURGH -- Julius Peppers picked up the ball, turned toward the wide swath of open field in front of him and took off.
Peppers scooped up a Ben Roethlisberger fumble and ran 42 yards with just under 4 minutes remaining to clinch a 40-23 victory Sunday night that kept the Bears (3-0) perfect.
The Steelers have played 467 games in the last 30 seasons. Sunday night marked just the sixth time they've turned it over at least five times without forcing a single turnover themselves. Here's a look at their most turnovers without a takeaway in the last 30 years:
|-- ESPN Stats & Information|
"I happened to be at the right place at the right time and the ball bounced to me," Peppers said. "I got a hand on it and took it in, so there wasn't much else to talk about. That was the longest run I had with the ball, yes, I will tell you that."
The Bears forced five turnovers in all, converting four of them into points to stave off a second-half rally by the Steelers (0-3). Pittsburgh trimmed a 21-point deficit to four in the fourth quarter but couldn't stop from stumbling to the franchise's worst start since 2000.
Roethlisberger completed 26 of 41 passes for 406 yards and threw two touchdowns to Antonio Brown, but also fumbled twice and threw two interceptions.
"We can't, I can't, turn the ball over, plain and simple," Roethlisberger said.
Major Wright returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter and Peppers' stroll to the end zone kept Chicago unbeaten. The Bears needed a pair of fourth-quarter rallies to win their first two games, but never trailed against Pittsburgh thanks to a defense that specializes in havoc.
"We came in here and got the job done," Peppers said. "They got close down the stretch, but we have veterans on our team that stayed cool. We don't panic no matter what."
Jay Cutler passed for 159 yards and threw a 17-yard touchdown strike to Earl Bennett with just under 6 minutes remaining to give the Bears breathing room after the Steelers pulled within 27-23 on Shaun Suisham's 44-yard field goal with 10:43 to play.
Chicago's offense, which generated little after a 17-point outburst in the first quarter, responded behind Cutler.
The quarterback scrambled for 13 yards on third-and-10 to start the drive. Cutler then hit Brandon Marshall for 41 yards on third-and-12 to move into Pittsburgh territory. Facing third-and-5 at the Pittsburgh 17, Cutler found Bennett in the back corner of the end zone.
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Officials ruled the pass was incomplete, but the play was overturned after replays showed Bennett deftly dragged his right foot before sliding out of bounds.
"The (defensive) back was there, but the throw was perfect and I was able to make the play," Bennett said. "The way we played in the fourth quarter, that really shows how resilient we are."
Pittsburgh tried to get back into the game, but Lance Briggs stripped Roethlisberger, and Peppers pounced. The veteran defensive end followed a parade of blockers down the sideline for Chicago's second defensive score of the night and third in two weeks.
"We try to scoop up every loose ball and run it back for a touchdown in practice," linebacker D.J. Williams said. "Even if it's not a fumble, we pick it up and go with it. We knew they had some problems with their offensive line, so we wanted to pressure them as much as possible. We were able to get past their tackles and pressure Ben quite a bit.
Roethlisberger's second interception on a late stat-padding drive was Pittsburgh's ninth turnover through three games. The Steelers defense, meanwhile, hasn't recorded a takeaway through 12 quarters.
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It's a recipe that rarely leads to victory.
"As of right now we have way too many turnovers and it goes both ways," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. "We've got to find ways to get the ball. That's what great defenses do."
And none do it better than the Bears. While not the snarling force it was when recently retired linebacker Brian Urlacher was running things, the Bears make up for their lack of bark with a pretty feisty bite.
When opponents get loose with the ball, the Bears swarm.
The mistakes started early. Pittsburgh turned it over twice in the first half. Williams stripped Roethlisberger in the first quarter, leading to a 5-yard touchdown run by Matt Forte.
Chicago was up 17-3 midway through the second quarter when Roethlisberger threw off his back foot in the face of a blitz. The bail sailed into the hands of Wright, who sprinted down the sideline for a touchdown to give the Bears a commanding 21-point lead.
The score marked the second straight week and the 10th time since the start of the 2012 season that the Bears returned an interception for a touchdown, easily the most in the NFL.
"That's what we do, we take the ball away," Peppers said. "We stress it in practice every day, and it carries over to the game ... we have to continue to do that on a weekly basis to continue to win, and I believe we'll be able to do that."
Steelers TE Heath Miller caught 3 passes for 35 yards in his first game back from torn ligaments in his right knee. ... The Bears lost DT Henry Melton to a knee injury early in the fourth quarter. ... Pittsburgh outgained the Bears 459-258. ... Steelers WR Antonio Brown finished with nine receptions for a career-high 196 yards and two touchdowns.
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 22: Major Wright #21 of the Chicago Bears celebrates a second quarter touchdown with...(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from Penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
|Yards per play||4.3||7.1|
Comp - Att
Yards per pass
Sacks - Yards Lost
Yards per rush
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||3-4||0-2|
|Defensive / Special Teams TDs||2||0|
|FG||08:02||Robbie Gould 47 Yd||3||0|
|TD||05:05||Matt Forte 5 Yd Run (Robbie Gould Kick)||10||0|
|TD||02:01||Michael Bush 1 Yd Run (Robbie Gould Kick)||17||0|
|FG||13:36||Shaun Suisham 27 Yd||17||3|
|TD||08:57||Major Wright 38 Yd Interception Return (Robbie Gould Kick)||24||3|
|TD||06:27||Antonio Brown 33 Yd Pass From Ben Roethlisberger (Shaun Suisham Kick)||24||10|
|FG||10:54||Robbie Gould 32 Yd||27||10|
|FG||05:38||Shaun Suisham 36 Yd||27||13|
|TD||01:50||Antonio Brown 21 Yd Pass From Ben Roethlisberger (Shaun Suisham Kick)||27||20|
|FG||10:38||Shaun Suisham 44 Yd||27||23|
|TD||05:48||Earl Bennett 17 Yd Pass From Jay Cutler (Robbie Gould Kick)||34||23|
|TD||03:57||Julius Peppers 42 Yd Fumble Return (Pat Blocked)||40||23|
Matt Forte ran for 85 yards and a touchdown on 13 rushes in between the tackles Sunday. His 6.5 yards per rush on such carries is his largest in a game since Week 12 of 2010 against the Eagles (8.1).
The Bears' defense sacked or put Ben Roethlisberger under duress on a season-high 16 of his 45 dropbacks Sunday (35.6&). Roethlisberger succumbed to the pressure as he had both an interception and sack-fumble that were returned for touchdowns.
Sunday was the Bears' 4th game with multiple defensive TD since last year. The other 31 teams have 10 combined.
ESPN Stats & Information