Bearing it All | Chicago Bears coverage | Bears v. Cowboys
In the Bears' 34-18 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, Bears defense was ferocious in its pursuit of the ball, intercepting Tony Romo five times and scoring two defensive touchdowns by veterans Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs. That lands the grabby Bears at the top of the league's stats chart in takeaways, with 14 in four games. Tim Jennings boasts the league's most interceptions at four. The Cowboys' run game was held to 41 yards. And despite passing for 307 yards, Romo was only able to nail one offensive touchdown. The Cowboys' final TD came during the last three minutes of the game, when ex-Bear quarterback Kyle Orton faced the Bears' second-string defense, well after the Bears had the win locked.
Call it maturity. Call it chemistry. Call it experience. Whatever it is, it's working. With most of the the Bears defensive starters in their thirties, many having faced injuries and surgeries, there was some skepticism early on that this phase would show up in 2012. Perhaps that's exactly why their drive is so intense—and effective. In post-game interviews, Briggs stressed that the defense feels an urgency to pull its weight with the buzz around the 2012 offense.
So why is 29-year-old, seven-year vet Jay Cutler still acting like a petulant child? He's a talented player with a strong arm. But he makes mistakes, too. He overthrew balls this week and last. And in this week's game, after a particularly frustrating series when play calls came in late, he was caught on camera, and by the Bears-heavy crowd in Dallas, blowing off his offensive coordinator Mike Tice on the sidelines. When Tice approached him to discuss the series, Cutler stood up immediately, avoiding eye contact and not uttering a word. Brandon Marshall is working on cleaning up his image while maintaining his edge. Would it kill Jay to take cues from an old friend? Or heck, from Saint Augustine: "You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility." Think about it, Jay.
Marshall definitely had his breakout game as a Bear on Monday night, with seven catches for 138 yards, his longest being a 31-yard touch-down reception. It was also good to see tight-ends being utilized a little more than they have the first three games. Kellen Davis caught three balls for 62 yards. In the fourth quarter he draped his enormous body over Danny McCray, ripping a near-interception from McCray's hands. And of course, kicker Robbie Gould was as good as gold, nailing two field goals for 21 and 43 yards. Protection is gradually improving for Cutler and Marshall is starting to show his ProBowl-worthy capabilities. While Cutler achieved a 140.1 passer rating this game, he's only averaged 75.3 this season. But let's chalk that up to working out the kinks of a new system and a new coordinator. Monday night's game may have been a turning point. What continues to energize this team is the defensive machine. Take away two defensive touchdowns and suddenly this is a much tighter game. Remove D.J. Moore's interception of Romo in the fourth that led to Marshall's touchdown and, suddenly, it's a much, much tighter game.
The Bears have a short week until their next game against the Jaguars in Jacksonville next Sunday at 3:05pm. Jacksonville's offense ranks last in the league and they've won only one game. Look for the Bears' defense to pad their stats and maintain their takeaway throne.