The Chicago Bears were painfully lethargic to start today’s contest. On the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the two teams were tied 3-3 after two quarters. The Bears adjusted at halftime and steamrolled through the second half, reeling of 38 unanswered points.
On both offense and defense, the Bears pummeled their opponent in the third and fourth quarters. The 41-3 final was the most lopsided road win for Chicago since beating the Dallas Cowboys 44-0 in 1985.
After the game, Jay Cutler talked about the schizophrenic performance of the offense.
“First half, we started a little slow. Took some shots, we weren’t converting, we weren’t executing, weren’t making the plays we wanted to make,” said Cutler. “The second half, totally different game. Went down, still didn’t get in the end zone early enough as we like to but the defense picked us up. We had a couple of long drives, ate up some clock. The defense got two scores for us and that really changed the game.”
In the second half, the defense returned two interceptions for touchdowns – the second week in a row they’ve accomplished that feat. The team now has 11 touchdowns the past two contests: six by the offense, five by the defense. The club is now 21-5 since 2005 when the defense scores.
“If they keep scoring it makes our jobs easier,” Cutler said.
The 4-1 Bears now head into the bye week tied with the Minnesota Vikings for first place in the NFC North. They come back home to face the Detroit Lions after the break.
-After scoring a 10-yard touchdown in the third quarter, Brandon Marshall came up holding his hand. He did not return to the game. His hand was wrapped when he came back from the locker room. He finished the contest with two catches for 20 yards and a TD.
NOTES FROM WEEK 5
-The offense today was carried by its two biggest playmakers. Matt Forte rushed 22 times for 107 yards (4.9 avg.) to go along with two catches for 20 yards. He was critical in establishing the ground game early, showing outstanding field vision and making numerous defenders miss at the line of scrimmage. The ability for the team to run the ball opened up the play action pass in the second half.
Yet the game ball today goes to Brandon Marshall, who caught 12 passes for 144 yards and a TD. He was targeted 17 times, which was 13 more than any other Bears player. Cutler looked his way early and often, particularly on third down. Marshall now has back-to-back 100-yard receiving games, the first Bears receiver to do so since 1999.
-Cutler finished 23 of 39 for 292 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception, good for an 88.8 QB rating. Yet despite those solid numbers, he was still very inconsistent. In the first half especially, Cutler was off target and struggled to find a rhythm. Case in point: for the second time in five games this season, Cutler’s first pass of the game was intercepted. He picked it up substantially in the second half, yet his constant Jekyll and Hyde act will always put the offense at risk.
-For the second straight week, the offensive line was solid. The team rushed for 214 total yards behind large holes opened by the front five. They wore down Jacksonville’s front seven and got better as the game progressed. Even more encouraging was the pass protection, which allowed just one sack. The Jaguars don’t present a top tier pass rush but even so, it was good to see the offensive line dominate.
“They did a great job; two weeks in a row,” Cutler said. “That’s the mark of consistency in the league is doing it game after game and week after week. They are putting together some games, which makes me excited.”
-Michael Bush is one heck of a complement to Forte. Bush’s hard-nosed running style helped beat the Jacksonville defense into submission late in the game. He even went so far as to leap over two defenders to pick up a first down. His contributions on this team should not be overlooked.
-Chicago got a solid contribution from Devin Hester, who had arguably the best catch of the season, making a diving grab on a fly pattern in the fourth quarter. They also got five quality carries from Armando Allen, who broke off a 46-yard TD to finish the scoring.
-Gabe Carimi was the only offensive lineman to give up a sack. He also added two consecutive false starts which derailed a long drive in the third quarter. Carimi has struggled this year so far and doesn’t appear to be improving, which is very concerning going forward.
-Stop me if you’ve heard this before: both Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman returned an interception for a TD today. For the second week in a row, each player accomplished that feat. Today, it was a pair of second-half 36-yard returns. It is the first time in NFL history that a pair of teammates have scored defensive touchdowns in back to back weeks.
Tillman now has eight defensive touchdowns, the most of any Bears player in franchise history. Briggs finished with the second most tackles on the team (4), to go along with a sack and a pass defended.
-Tim Jennings, who was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month in September, had another strong outing. He gave up a few plays early but he ended the game with another deflected pass and the most tackles on the team (6).
-Corey Wootton had the strongest outing of his career today. He picked up 2.0 sacks, a single-game career best, one of which ended up causing a fumble. He now has 3.5 sacks on the season, after registering just one his first two years in the NFL. After struggling with injuries in 2010 and 2011, Wootton is finally healthy. He’s in the midst of his longest stretch of healthy games and the improvement is showing. He’s a player that, before the injuries started his senior season at Northwestern, was once considered a potential first-round pick. Now that he’s finally in full health, we’re starting to see the player many believed he would become.
-The key to this game was stopping Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars’ rushing attack. The front seven did just that, holding Jacksonville to 60 rushing yards as a team. The Bears entered this game third best in the league against the run. This performance might propel them to the top of the NFL.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.