CHICAGO The way was picking them apart early, the Chicago Bears looked as though they were in for a rough afternoon against the .
Instead, they regrouped and moved closer to a first-round bye.
Jay Cutler threw three touchdown passes, Matt Forte ran for 113 yards and the Bears beat the playoff-bound Jets 38-34 on Sunday.
The Jets (10-5) lost for third time in four games, but clinched their second straight postseason trip under coach when Jacksonville lost 20-17 in overtime to Washington. Chris Harris intercepted Sanchez on a pass intended for Santonio Holmes with about a minute left to end New York’s comeback bid.
The win was the seventh in eight games for the Bears (11-4), who blew an early 10-point lead. Chicago is now in good position to lock up a bye. The Bears came in needing a win, coupled with a loss by Philadelphia and a loss or tie by the Giants. The won’t play until Tuesday after their game against Minnesota got pushed back by snow.
Cutler completed 13 of 25 passes for 215 yards, with Johnny Knox catching four for 92 with two touchdowns, the second coming when he beat Antonio Cromartie on a 26-yarder that broke a 31-31 tie in the third quarter.
Forte had a big game and, assuming those numbers stand, will be the first opponent to run for 100 or more yards against the Jets this season. Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall had a yard deducted after initially being credited with 100 last week.
Sanchez seemed to be just fine after playing most of last week’s win over Pittsburgh with a shoulder injury. He threw for 269 yards and a touchdown, completing 24 of 37 passes after a sizzling start, but his interception sealed the win for Chicago and capped another wild week for New York that included more headline-grabbing distractions.
At the center of it was Ryan, who was the subject of an embarrassing foot-fetish report by Deadspin featuring videos of a woman — who bears a close resemblance to Ryan’s wife, Michelle — displaying her toes to an off-screen cameraman who sounds a lot like the coach. Ryan had little to say about the report, repeatedly calling it “a personal matter.” The week then ended on a sour note, with the Jets getting outplayed in the second half after erasing an early 10-point deficit.
Sanchez completed 13 of 15 passes for 156 yards in the first half, and the Jets led 24-17, but the momentum turned in a big way after halftime.
A fake punt by New York on the opening drive of the third quarter failed as Sanchez’s pass to Brad Smith fell incomplete and things only got worse from there.
Cutler tied it on the next play when he hit Knox in the end zone with a 40-yard touchdown, and in a flash, the Bears were leading thanks to two big plays by Devin Hester.
One week after he set the league record with his 14th career kick return for a touchdown against Minnesota last week, he wowed the crowd again with another big return. This one came after Ryan vowed to avoid him. Instead, Hester returned a punt 38 yards to the New York 32, putting a neat juke on James Ihedigbo as he turned up the right side that caused his leg to give way and left him with a knee injury.
Then, Hester beat Drew Coleman and caught a 25-yard TD pass from Cutler along the left side that gave the Bears a short-lived 31-24 lead.
New York immediately tied it on a 23-yard pass from Sanchez to Holmes, but Chicago answered again.
This time, Knox beat Cromartie while hauling in a 26-yard scoring pass that made it 38-31 with about 6 minutes left in the quarter.
A 34-yard field goal by Folk in the opening seconds of the fourth pulled New York within four, and Chicago’s Robbie Gould then was wide right on a 35-yarder, the shortest miss of his career.