Bears Shutout Bengals

The Bears came as close to a perfect game as they have in years. The defense pitched their first shutout since 1993, Anthony Thomas set a team rookie record for rushing yards and the win improves their record to 4-1 putting them atop the central division.

The Bears ability to stop Cincinnati from running the ball, while controlling the clock with their rushing attack produced the lopsided victory. However, the victory didn't come without a price. Marcus Robinson sprained his knee in the second quarter and missed the remainder of the contest. The severity of the injury is not known at this point, but Dick Jauron said the wide receiver could miss the remainder of the season.

The Bears took advantage of the Bengals secondary early moving the ball down the field via the air. David Terrell caught a pass four yards off the line ditched a tackler and had an 11 yard gain. Marcus Robinson caught a 14-yard pass, but Blake Brockermeyer was called for holding. Chicago followed with the same play and again it was good for 14 yards. On 1st and 10 the Bears handed off to Anthony Thomas, who broke an inside run outside and ran 21 yards down to the Bengals 33. Thomas gained 8 yards on second down setting up third and 2. Miller found Marty Booker for 17 yards, but he fumbled as he tried to transfer the ball to his right hand. Cincinnati recovered the ball on their 2-yard line.

Chicago forced Cincinnati into a three and out. A poor punt by Nick Harris gave the Bears the ball at the Bengal 32. However, Miller was unable to move the ball. Incomplete passes on 2nd and 3rd down brought on Paul Edinger for a field goal attempt. He hit from 48 yards putting the Bears up 3-0.

The Bengals were continuously put in third and longs because the Bears were stuffing Corey Dillon on first and second down. The defense dominated the line of scrimmage in the first half. Dillon, who had 140 yards the previous week against Cleveland, carried the ball 9 times in the first half for 5 yards.

``We were particularly concerned about their running game so a great deal of credit should be given to our defense and our defensive staff,'' Dick Jauron said. ``The players played their hearts out. Corey Dillon is a tremendous football player in our opinion.''

Although, Kitna was able to convert on many due to a lack of pressure, which gave the quarterback time to find an open receiver. Gains of 14, 16 and 10 on 3rd down moved the ball to the Chicago 29. Kitna then found Darnay Scott on a 23-yard completion putting the ball on the 6 ending the first quarter. On first and goal Kitna rolled out of the pocket and slipped giving Brian Urlacher an easy sack as he touched the QB down at the 16. On second down the Bengals went from a shotgun formation and a high snap from center threw off the timing of the play. Kitna tried to find Peter Warrick, but R.W. McQuarters jumped in front of the pass and returned the ball 43 yards.

The interception gave the Bears the ball at their 49. Two plays later Anthony Thomas got the handoff and again cut the run to the outside. The rookie showed his quick feet as he sprinted down the sideline and was tackled just short of the end zone. Thomas' 46 yard gain put the ball at the Bengal 1-yard line. Miller used Thomas as a decoy on first and goal finding Fred Baxter for a touchdown on a playaction pass. Edinger's extra point gave Chicago a 10-0 lead.

The Bears haven't allowed a first half touchdown this year and the defense continued the streak by holding the Bengals to 87 total yards in the half. Still, Chicago couldn't be satisfied with their 10-0 halftime lead.

Six of seven first half possessions went into Cincinnati territory. Once again Chicago was unable to convert opportunities into points. With 6:06 left in the first half the Bears took over at their 13. Marcus Robinson caught a short pass and turned it into a 24 -yard gain, but he sprained his knee on the tackle. Robinson left the game and didn't return. The receiver had five receptions good for 50 yards. His status is unknown and will be reevaluated during the week.

With their number one receiver out the Bears turned back to the running game. Thomas carried the ball on five consecutive plays for 30 yards, which moved Chicago within field goal range. The running back went over 100 yards in the first half. The ten-play drive, which took 4:45 off the game clock, resulted in nothing as Edinger missed a 43-yard attempt wide left leaving 1:19 left in the half.

The Bengals were not content to run out the clock as they took over after the missed field goal. Phillip Daniels got a coverage sack on Kitna. Cincinnati went to the no huddle and threw incomplete passes on second and third down stopping the clock with 52 seconds left. After a Harris punt Chicago took over on their 42 with 35 seconds and two timeouts. A 17-yard catch by Booker moved the ball to the 35 with 11 seconds left. David Terrell, who had his most productive game as a pro, caught a short pass and got out of bounds leaving Edinger a 44 yard field goal attempt to end the half. This time the kick was true, but a questionable personal foul penalty on Blake Brockermeyer negated the kick taking three points off the board and ending the half.

The Bears continued to slow the Bengal offense in the third quarter forcing two more Harris punts. Chicago attempted to finish the job as the offense took the field with 6:47 left in the quarter. After Terrell caught a ball up over his head for a first down Miller went back to the rookie this time hooking up for a 41-yard gain. Terrell caught the ball in the middle of the field and sprinted down to the Cincinnati 15. Two plays later Miller found Marty Booker, who cut across the field and carried two would be tacklers into the end zone. Booker's third touchdown of the year gave Chicago a 17-0 advantage.

Cincinnati was determined to foil the Bears shutout. Kitna found a new target in receiver Ron Dugans. The wideout caught three balls for 49 yards on the drive. Chicago's defense bent but didn't break. The Bears forced the Bengals to attempt a 39-yard field goal. Neil Rackers, who had connected on 6 of 11 attempts coming into the game, continued to struggle hooking the kick wide left.

Chicago took over with just over 14 minutes left in the game. Instead of being content with the lead the Bears took it to the home team. Terrell had consecutive receptions of 10 and 7 yards. Dez White had a good catch in traffic on third down. Miller hooked up with Booker again this time for 20 yards. Then Thomas put an exclamation point up with a 23-yard touchdown run giving Chicago a 24-0 lead with 9:05 left to play.

The rookie finished with 188 yards rushing on 22 carries, which is the most yards by a Bear running back since Walter Payton's 192-yard effort in the Super Bowl 1985 season against Green Bay.

To do something Bear greats like Gale Sayers and Payton hadn't done as a rookie humbled Thomas. ``As a kid you always think things like that,'' Thomas said. ``But I mean, when it comes to reality, it's hard to do.

``I know some of the guys that played, like Gale and Walter, it's a compliment (to me) that some of those guys didn't do it.''

Miller threw for 232 yards on 23-of-32 and the Bears piled up 435 net yards of offense to complement the defense.

The only question left was if the Bears would shutout the Bengals. Kitna attempted to lead Cincinnati one last time. He completed passes of 17 and 27 yards in moving the offense downfield. In fact, Cincinnati had first and goal from the 2. However, Kitna misfired on four consecutive passes preserving the shutout and a Bears victory.

The Bears victory combined with the Packers loss at Minnesota puts Chicago in first place in the central division and also gives the team their first four-game winning streak since 1995. Now 4-1, the Bears are off to their best start since starting 4-1 in 1991.

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