Bears tie for top of NFC North going into bye week
Sunday's 41-3 shellacking of the hopeless Jacksonville Jaguars did not start as the total domination that Bears fans would have like to have seen against a one-win team. The first half ended tied at 3. But, what does matter is the score when the clock ticks down to zero. And by the end of the second half, there was no question as to the Bears supremacy during this fourth win of the season.
The Bears defensive dominion is clear; in this team, they clearly wear the pants. Theirs is the second best rushing defense in the league, forcing teams to pass and potentially turn over the ball. Historic back-to-back weeks of pick-sixes by both Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman lead to the first touchdowns of the game. Plundering the ball from a woebegone Jaguars, the Bears defense ignited a 38-0 scoring run that included a field goal, two defensive touchdowns, and three offensive touchdowns—the final one was running back Armando Allen's first of his NFL career. Thirty one of those points were scored in the span of under thirteen minutes.
Bears defense was the catalyst for a second-half performance by the offense in which Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall put up 100+ yard rushing- and receiving-yard days, respectively. However, prior to Tillman's interception of Blaine Gabbert , the offense's performance was troubling, to say the least. Jay Cutler was intercepted on the Bears first offensive drive, had a delay of game penalty in their second, and went three and out in their fourth. They started the second half with a holding penalty that set them back ten yards. The Jaguars, who rank towards the bottom in nearly all defensive stats, notched their third sack of the season to start the third quarter. Gabe Carimi's back to back false start penalties in the third quarter set back the Bears' chance at a touchdown, and they had to settle for a Robbie Gould field goal.
During Monday's Halas Hall press conference, Head Coach Lovie Smith didn't have any good explanation for the rough start. While he mentioned that the 88 degree heat could have been a factor, he didn't use it as an excuse, which I found refreshing. And despite the media seeming to dote on the Bears total demolition of the 1-4 Jaguars, Smith kept his perspective. "There's a lot of work to be done….So many things (that) you can watch (on) the video and you can correct," he said. Normally, Smith is evasive and frustrating, but I appreciated how he tempered his gushing media audience with a bit of humility. Perhaps he, too, is finding areas on which he can improve.
It's true, there are things that have to be ironed out. The defense may not always be able to be the big brothers, charging out there saying "look kid, this is how it's done," to get offense going. There's no shortage of talent on the offense side, but, in the last two weeks, it has taken oneupsmenship from the defensive side of the ball to get Cutler and Co. into a rhythm.
Fortunately, there doesn't seem to be anything stopping the Bears defensive onslaught just yet and injuries are at a minimum. Tim Jennings received the distinction of the NFL's Defensive Player of the Month for September. Tillman's interception for a touchdown was the eighth of his career and broke the Bears franchise record. Third year defensive end Corey Wootton, infamous for concussing Brett Favre in a 2010 Vikings game on the first sack of his NFL career, is developing into a solid player. He put up two sacks on Gabbert during Sunday's game, a great complement to an already ferocious d-line. And, also during Monday's press conference, Smith promised more pillaging from his defense saying, "Once we get good, you'll see a lot of caused [forced] fumbles."
The Bears will practice Tuesday and Wednesday, then take some time away from pigskins and cleats for their bye-week rest. Hopefully, the extra time affords Alshon Jeffery extra time to heal his hand. Jeffery scored a the first offensive touchdown yesterday, but appeared to have injured his hand on that play and sat out the remainder of the game. It will also allow wide receiver Earl Bennett one extra week to mend his hand, which has kept him off the field for the last two games. The Bears go into the bye week on back-to-back wins and sit tied with the Minnesota Vikings for the top spot in the NFC North. They face the Detroit Lions at home on Monday October 22 at 7:30pm.