The Chicago Bears ran their record to 7-1 this afternoon, easily dispatching the Tennessee Titans 51-20 at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn. It was a game where all three phases of Chicago's team – offense, defense and special teams – put points on the board. The 51 points are the most on the road since 1963 and the most in a single game since 1980. Chicago has won six in a row.
The Bears stay atop the NFC North, with a 1.5-game lead over the Packers (6-3) and a three-game lead over the Detroit Lions (4-4). The Minnesota Vikings (5-3) are in the middle of a road contest in Seattle.
DE Israel Idonije left the field for more than a quarter with a leg injury. The training staff taped up his ankle and Idonije returned to the game.
DT Henry Melton left the game with a lower back injury but returned in the second half.
Keys to the Game
Bears of Offense
-Chicago's offense started out slowly today. They scored twice in their first two drives, although those drives started on the Tennessee 9- and 16-yard lines respectively. At halftime, the Bears had just 136 yards of offense.
Yet, as has been the case for most of 2012, Chicago's offense kicked it into another gear in the second half. They finished with 358 total yards and four touchdowns.
-Leading the way was WR Brandon Marshall, who had his best game this season, catching nine passes (on 10 targets) for 122 yards and three touchdowns. He was nearly unstoppable all day, catching TDs of five, 13 and 39 yards. It is Marshall's fourth 100-yard receiving game this season. The last Chicago player to catch three touchdowns in a single game was Greg Olsen on Nov. 8, 2009. Marshall now has 59 catches for 819 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games this season, and is on pace to shatter nearly every receiving record in franchise history.
-His partner in crime, QB Jay Cutler, got off to a slow start but ended with a big day. He finished 19 of 26 for 229 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INT, good for a 138.1 passer rating. Cutler came into the game with the highest fourth-quarter passer rating in the league and padded those numbers today, going 4 of 5 for 66 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs and a perfect 158.3 passer rating in the final frame. Cutler is 25-0 in his career when he finishes with a passer rating of 100 or more, 15-0 with the Bears.
-Another positive to take from the passing game was the inclusion of WR Earl Bennett, who was targeted eight times, just two fewer than Marshall. He caught just four of those passes for 22 yards but it was good to see him incorporated back into the offense in a season that so far has been disappointing.
-RB Matt Forte had another strong outing, rushing 12 times for 103 yards (8.6 avg.) and a TD, while adding another 45 yards on two receptions. Forte's ability to gain yards on the ground opened up the passing attack in the second half, which led to the route.
-The Bears rushed for 160 yards as a team at 4.4 yards per carry. The offensive line opened up holes all day long. Yet in pass protection, the front five again struggled. They allowed three sacks and five hurries on the day, which kept Chicago from getting into a passing rhythm until nearly the fourth quarter. The offensive line has allowed 14 sacks over the past three games, which is unacceptable. In comparison, Eli Manning of the New York Giants has been sacked six times all season.
RT Gabe Carimi was particularly disappointing, as he looked liked a turnstile for most of the afternoon. This is becoming the norm for Carimi. He can maul in the run game but he gives up far too much pressure off the right edge.
The same goes for Webb, who was only slightly better than Carimi this afternoon. He gave up a sack and had an illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty in the end zone, which resulted in a Titans safety. Cutler will be in constant duress the remainder of the season unless these two edge blockers can get their acts together.
Bears on Defense
-Chicago's offense didn't need to be dominant today, as the defense and special teams both scored touchdowns. The first came on a blocked punt by Sherrick McManis, which was returned five yards by Corey Wootton for the score. McManis, acquired before the start of the season in a trade with the Houston Texans for FB Tyler Clutts, has proven to be an extremely valuable member of Chicago's special teams.
The second score also came in the first quarter, on a 46-yard interception return by LB Brian Urlacher. It was the second INT score of Urlacher's career and the team's seventh interception return TD of the season, a franchise record. The league record is nine return TDs. Since 2005, the Bears are 20-2 when scoring a defensive touchdown.
-Yet the star of this game was CB Charles Tillman, who led the team with nine tackles and forced four fumbles, the most in a single game in 20 years. He also defended a pass.
For the season, Tillman now has 43 total tackles, six passes defended, two interceptions, both of which were returned for touchdowns, as well as seven forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Week twice and earned NFC Defensive Player of the Month in October. He is arguably the club's defensive MVP through the first half of the season and is making a case for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
-Wootton had another solid game and replaced Idonije while he was getting treatment on the sidelines in the first half. Wootton finished the game with a special teams touchdown and a sack. He now has 4.0 sacks on the season, second most on the team.
-DT Amobi Okoye was inactive today for the second week in a row, with Nate Collins taking his roster spot. Collins had his second straight solid performance, racking up three tackles and a deflected pass. At this point, Collins has shown enough against both the run and the pass to make Okoye expendable, assuming Melton is healthy.
-CB Kelvin Hayden appears to have taken over the club's nickelback position from D.J. Moore. Hayden got the vast majority of snaps with the starters, picking up two sacks and recovering two fumbles. Hayden is a bigger, more physical corner than Moore, who has been inconsistent this season.
-S Chris Conte also had a strong outing, following up a poor performance last week. He defended three passes, the most on the team, and recovered a fumble.
Follow me on Twitter: @BearReport
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.