For the past 13 years, No. 57 was a familiar sight in the middle of the Bears' offensive line.
Now Olin Kreutz is gone, but he'll be back in the middle of a Bears game Sunday, this time wearing No. 50 and snapping the ball to Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Kreutz, a six-time Pro Bowl player, was asking for $4.5 million this year, and he balked at the Bears' offer of $4 million. So, when the Bears demanded an answer, the 34-year-old iron man took his game to the bayou for a $2 million guarantee and a chance to earn $2 million more in playing time incentives.
"(No.) 50 looks weird on him," said linebacker Brian Urlacher, who should see plenty of his former teammate Sunday. "I watched him Thursday night, and I watched him throughout the preseason. He just looks different, different jersey, but that's the NFL."
Prior to the season, Kreutz had started 134 straight games at center for the Bears. On Sunday, Roberto Garza started his first Bears game at center after starting 78 of the previous 80 at guard next to Kreutz.
"It's been weird, because we got a chance to watch a couple games with him out there," Garza said. "He's still Olin, flying around hitting people, but it's weird to see him out there in that No. 50."
CB Charles Tillman
Mike DiNovo/US Presswire
--The fumble that Charles Tillman forced in the first quarter was the 25th of his career, although it seems as if he's got twice that many, maybe because 17 of them came in the previous four years.
"He's unbelievable," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "He does it five times a day in practice. He doesn't even hit the ball hard. It's like he barely hits it and the ball comes out. I don't know how he does it. Maybe he has great hand-eye coordination, but he gets to the right spot on the ball every time and it pops out."
Since Tillman entered the league in 2003, no cornerback has forced as many fumbles as he has. Coach Lovie Smith says Tillman is the best he's seen at that phase of the game.
"As a staff, you learn so much from your players, and we've been with Charles now for eight years of seeing him do it," Smith said. "We preach it. Every coach in the league knows how to teach taking the ball away. But to see a guy do it over and over, it just says an awful lot about him."
--RB Marion Barber (calf), who was inactive Sunday, is expected to return to practice this week.
--QB Jay Cutler is 23-0 when he has a passer rating of over 100, as he did Sunday (107.8) in the 30-12 victory over the Falcons.
--LB Brian Urlacher's interception Sunday was the 19th of his career, and the touchdown he scored on a 12-yard fumble return was the fourth score of his career (two fumbles, one interception, one reception).
--CB Charles Tillman's forced fumble on Sunday was the 25th of his career, more than any other cornerback in the NFL since he entered the league in 2003.
REPORT CARD VS. FALCONS
Passing Offense: B -- QB Jay Cutler was excellent (22 of 32 for 312 yards) with the exception of an errant pass intended for TE Kellen Davis who was wide open on the left side of the offense after Cutler had rolled out to the right. Despite being sacked five times, Cutler didn't show any hesitancy to stand in the pocket and distributed the ball evenly as four players had at least three catches and at least 55 yards. The pass protection needs to improve, but at times Cutler had plenty of time to throw.
Rushing Offense: D -- The Bears ran the ball often enough to keep the passing lanes open, but their total of 88 yards on 27 carries left them with a disappointing 3.3-yard average. Matt Forte was solid with 68 yards on 16 carries for a 4.3-yard average.
Pass Defense: B -- They allowed Matt Ryan to throw for 319 yards, but he needed 47 passes to do so, and the Bears sacked him five times and picked him off once. DE Julius Peppers, who had two sacks, forced Ryan into a fumble, which was returned for a TD by LB Brian Urlacher, who also had an interception that set up a touchdown drive. The Bears had five sacks, including two by 3-technique Henry Melton in his first start.
Rush Defense: C -- Fortunately the Falcons were chasing points much of the afternoon, so they only ran the ball 14 times, but they picked up 110 yards on the ground for a 7.9-yard average, and Michael Turner gashed the defense for an even 100 yards on just 10 attempts.
Special Team: B-plus -- K Robbie Gould went 3-for-3 on field goals (41, 23 and 26 yards) and four of his six kickoffs went for touchbacks. P Adam Podlesh had an excellent net average of 46.3 yards, allowing just 10 return yards on six kicks.
Coaching: B -- Offensive play-calling seemed to keep the Falcons off balance, especially the screen pass to RB Matt Forte that went for a 56-yard TD and the short flip to Devin Hester that picked up 53 yards. The defense got good pressure using mostly a four-man rush without a lot of blitzing.
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