3 and Out: Bears defense holds on in Christmas Eve win over Arizona Cardinals

Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields finds a hole in the Arizona Cardinals defense during their game Sunday, Dec. 24, 2023, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

CHICAGO – The Arizona Cardinals clawed within eight points in the fourth quarter, but the defense came through with a strong finish in the Bears’ win 27-16 win on Sunday at Soldier Field. Here’s what you need to know:

Three moments that mattered

1. See ya: Cairo Santos knocked in a 29-yard field goal with 1:02 left to ensure the victory. A day after inking a four-year extension, Santos was 2 for 2 on field goals.

2. Burned: With 6:37 left in the fourth quarter, the Bears defense was gashed for a 38-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion failed to leave the Bears leading 24-16, but the drive was a tough one for the defense: 80 yards allowed on eight plays. It wasn’t helped by a holding penalty on safety Jaquan Brisker on a fourth-and-2 incompletion that kept the Cardinals on the field.

3. Sigh of relief: DJ Moore exited the game on his first touch following a completion early in the first quarter. The Bears star wideout suffered an ankle injury, but re-entered on the following possession in which Justin Fields scrambled for a 3-yard rushing touchdown. Fans everywhere let out a huge sigh of relief.

Three things that worked

1. Gordon: It’s hard not to notice Kyler Gordon on a weekly basis. Gordon was, again, highly productive with seven tackles, one sack and one pass defensed. Two sequences stood out: The first was back-to-back tackles for minimal gains on the drive that concluded with the Cardinals’ field goal to make it 21-10 at that point. The other was Gordon knifing in for a sack on Murray with 1:04 left in the third quarter. He’s certainly playing with confidence.

2. Closed it out: The Bears defense, overall, held up. The Cardinals finished with 306 total yards and were 7 of 15 on third down. Arizona was held to a pedestrian 82 rushing yards and Murray wasn’t overly dangerous.

3. TE Eve: Cole Kmet had his way in the passing game against a porous Cardinals defense. Kmet had four catches for 107 yards at the half for a career-high. Marcedes Lewis also caught his first touchdown of the season, and the 40th of his career to put the Bears ahead 21-0 with 7:12 left in the first half. All around, it was a solid day for the tight end room.

Three things that didn’t

1. One step forward, two back: Two plays on the Bears’ opening fourth quarter drive sum up the Fields experience. He scrambled for 39 yards and showcased the home run top-speed ability to put the Bears in scoring position. Then, Fields threw a rough interception to Jalen Thompson in the end zone to spoil what could’ve been the dagger score with a much better ball.

2. Ugly first-half conclusion: The Bears offense had the ball twice following the Cardinals’ touchdown in the first half and punted twice. The drives generated one combined yard on six plays with no runs. Getting at least a field goal going into the half would’ve been ideal, especially with the Cardinals adding one of their own to open the second half.

3. In the air: The Cardinals’ defense is one of the worst passing units in the league, so there’s a little more to be desired from Fields as a passer. Finishing 15 of 27 with 170 passing yards and one passing score was enough to win, sure, but it wasn’t a strong day through the air. Yes, the 97 rushing yards is key, but Fields missed a number of throws.

What’s next?

The Bears host the Atlanta Falcons on New Year’s Eve with kickoff at noon.

Jacob Bartelson

Jacob Bartelson

Jake is a full-time sports reporter writing primarily for the Kane County Chronicle covering preps. His collective work is featured across several Shaw markets and platforms, including Friday Night Drive and Bears Insider. Jake began full-time in 2017.