Andy Dalton’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell gave Cincinnati a 7-6 lead with 2:15 left in the first quarter, but it was all Chicago after that as Trubisky and the Chicago running game (232 yards) exploited the middle of the field against a Bengals defense that was missing starting linebackers Vontaze Burfict (concussion) and Nick Vigil (ankle).
The Bengals also were without starting cornerbacks Adam Jones (groin) and Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion) and starting safety Shawn Williams. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who was questionable with a toe injury, only played a handful of snaps, and defensive end Carlos Dunlap left with a chest injury in the second half.
The Cincinnati offense was without starting running back Joe Mixon (concussion), but most of the struggles occurred in the passing game, and they came from an unlikely source.
Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green dropped three passes, one of which fell into the arms of the Chicago safety Eddie Jackson to snap Dalton’s career-long streak of 193 passes without an interception.
The Bears converted that into a seven-play, 43-yard touchdown drive that upped the lead to 26-7 on Trubisky’s 1-yard pass to tight end Adam Shaheen the first play of the fourth quarter.
On the next drive, Jackson stripped Green at the Chicago 20, and the Bears went 80 yards in seven plays for Howard’s second touchdown.
Dalton finished 14 of 29 for 141 yards with one touchdown and one interception for a 59.7 passer rating as the Bengals finished with 234 total yards.
AJ McCarron replaced him with 4:30 left in the game and went 3 of 7 for 43 yards.
The 482 yards by the Chicago offense were a season high and helped make former Bengals kicker Mike Nugent’s return to Cincinnati a winning one.
Nugent banged his first extra point off the upright before hitting his next three in addition to field goals of 27 and 34 yards.
The Bengals need to win their remaining three games to avoid back-to-back losing seasons for just the second time in the Lewis era. They return to action next Sunday at Minnesota.