Coming off a bye, at home, with both of its division rivals winning this weekend, the Chicago Bears needed a strong performance against the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football. The defense showed up in a big way and nearly had a shutout – Detroit's only points came on a garbage-time score with less than a minute remaining in the contest.
The 13-7 win moves the Bears to 5-1 on the season and they are in sole possession of first place in the NFC North. They return to Soldier Field next week to take on the 1-5 Carolina Panthers.
The only injury for Chicago was to QB Jay Cutler, who hurt his ribs on a sack from DT Ndamukong Suh. He was taken to the locker room before the half and given x-rays, which came back negative. He said after the game he should be fine to play next week.
Notes from Week 6
-The Bears rushed for 171 yards on 32 carries (5.3 yards per carry). Coordinator Mike Tice called RB Matt Forte's number early and often, giving him 22 carries for 96 yards, which included a 39-yard scamper in the first quarter. RB Michael Bush added six carries for 36 yards, while Cutler scrambled three times for 34 yards.
Although, when the Bears needed to run the ball most, Tice got pass happy. In the third quarter, the Lions muffed a punt and gave Chicago the ball on the 27-yard line. A few plays later, the Bears had first and goal at the 3-yard line. Tice then called three straight pass plays, all of which fell incomplete, forcing the team to kick a field goal. Had they handed the ball to Bush three times, or even just once, it's almost guaranteed they would have scored a touchdown.
-The Bears needed to run the ball well tonight, as the passing game floundered like a fish out of water. Outside of the Cutler-Marshall combination, Chicago's aerial attack truly struggled. Cutler, against a Lions secondary that was without two of its top three cornerbacks, completed just 16 of 31 passes for 150 yards and 1 TD. His long completion of the night went for 39 yards. He was off target all night, although his hurt ribs obviously didn't help.
-Cutler was hurt tonight because the offensive line failed to adequately protect him. He was sacked five times and hit nine times. For most of the contest, he was running for his life. The Bears' offensive line is a schizophrenic bunch. One game, they can look amazing in pass protection. The next, like this evening, they block live sieves. Much of the pressure came when Detroit blitzed, for which the front five had no answer. This group has to start communicating and winning their one-on-one battles, otherwise the passing game will continue to stagnate.
-Marshall again was the focal point of Chicago's aerial attack. He caught six passes, three more than any other Bears player, for 81 yards and a touchdown. Receivers Devin Hester and Earl Bennett combined for six catches and 65 yards, doing their best to make up for the production lost due to Alshon Jeffery's hand injury. Forte also had three catches, although for a measly four yards.
-The only reason this game was close was because of penalties. The Bears had nine penalties on the game. Most of them came on offense, with holding and false start penalties that derailed a number of drives. This team has to play more disciplined going forward.
-On defense, it was one more outstanding overall performance. The Bears limited the Lions to 340 yards of total offense, although nearly half of that came in garbage time. Otherwise, QB Matthew Stafford and the Detroit offense had no answer for Chicago's swarming defense. They had three takeaways – two fumble recoveries and an interception – to go along with three sacks.
-The key to Chicago's success was shutting down Detroit's run game. The Lions managed 99 yards on the ground, although 23 of that came on Stafford scrambles. In the second half, with the run game sputtering, the Lions were forced to throw repeatedly and could never get into a rhythm. The Bears came into this game ranked first against the rush and it appears no team in the NFL is going to be run against them this season.
-LB Brian Urlacher was a big part of the defensive success tonight. He is slowly regaining his pre-injury form and looked as quick as he has all season. Yet the best linebacker on this team is easily Lance Briggs, who continues to have an MVP season. He finished second on the team with eight tackles, a deflected a pass and a forced a fumble on the one-yard line that resulted in a Bears takeaway, an absolutely crucial moment in the game. I don't know of a linebacker in the NFL playing better than Briggs right now.
-CB D.J. Moore picked up the team's only interception on a horrible pass by Stafford in the red zone. It was the second Detroit turnover in the red zone and the one that sealed the game for the Bears.
-The game ball tonight goes to CB Charles Tillman. He had seven tackles, two passes defended and forced two fumbles. His play on WR Calvin Johnson was Pro Bowl worthy. He held arguably the best wide receiver in the game to just three catches for 34 yards. The Bears used a number of different coverage schemes to fool the Lions, yet one thing stayed consistent: Tillman blanketing Johnson. It was an outstanding display of coverage by arguably the best cornerback in Bears history.
-Strategically, the Bears mixed it up on defense. They ran an unpredictable blend of man and zone coverage, which kept the Lions on their toes. They also mixed it up at the nickelback position, rotating Moore and Kelvin Hayden depending on personnel. They also ran a handful of zone blitzes, which involved dropping defensive linemen into coverage. And they again lined up DE Shea McClellin at linebacker on a few snaps, letting him play rover behind the defensive line.
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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.