Bears Defense Made Early Statement

CHICAGO _ Brian Urlacher's big hit served notice early in Sunday night's 16-3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons that Michael Vick and the league's top-ranked running team would not find yardage easy to come by.

Warrick Dunn was held to 81 yards on 17 tries and Vick 35 yards on six rushes as Atlanta's 114 rushing yards was almost 60 yards below its average.

"We started making plays early," Urlacher said. "I think that gets you going a little bit."

Urlacher climbed over an open-field block by Dunn to nail Vick on a second-and-seven scramble for no gain on that first Falcons series. Vick completed 13-of-32 for 122 yards and a passer rating of 25.8.

"The defensive backs stayed on receivers and we just kept running," Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. "And then when you've got a guy like 54 (Urlacher), who has got the speed that he has, he keeps Vick second-guessing himself. We were just really, really happy that the guys out there could make plays on him.

"We didn't shut him down as much as we should, but we kept him off balance."

Ogunleye thought the big hits early especially made a difference.

"For a quarterback, it does," Ogunleye said. "It gets you scared, like, 'OK, these guys are ready to play. Early on last week against Pittsburgh we weren't making tackles. That kind of gives people momentum.

"The way we hit Vick today early on, as a team, they knew we were ready to play."

The Bears had a different formation to throw at Vick, as well. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said it was brought on due to linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer's broken thumb, an injury that kept him out of the game. It served to stop the run and keep Vick contained.

"Hunter being down, we thought we could go with two linebackers -- leave Brian and Lance (Briggs) in the middle -- and put five down linemen out there. That gave us some back-side contain and at the same time we were pretty stout on the inside."

Rivera added that the tackling was much better overall than in the loss to Pittsburgh, when the Bears gave up 190 rushing yards. Atlanta, the NFL's top rushing team, was held to 114 yards rushing, almost 60 yards below its average.

"The problem last week was we just didn't play very well, to be honest with you," Rivera said. "I mean, we missed tackles and stuff like that. But this week I think the guys more than redeemed themselves."

Chilly in Windy City
How cold was it? With temperatures dipping to 7 degrees below zero with wind-chill in the second half, wide receiver Justin Gage needed no thermometer to tell him what was uncomfortable.

"A couple of the waters in the water bottles was freezing up, snot was sticking from guys' noses," he said. "Whatever it was, you could just see it was cold."

To stay warm, he used mind over matter. He said he told himself 'It was about a 70-degree day. That's what I keep telling myself. It was miserably cold."

Boiling Point
Coach Jim Mora Jr. wasn't too happy about a fourth-quarter Nathan Vasher interception in the fourth quarter that replay refused to overturn. He drew a 15-yard penalty.

After the game, he was less than forthright in his comment on the call.

"I've got no comment on the officiating," he said. "I think they do a wonderful job."

The loss dealt a severe blow to the Falcons' playoff hopes.

Early Present
West Dundee's James Lord was the winner of a $300,000 dream home in the "Score a New Home Giveaway."

He was on the field for the giveaway with fellow contest finalists Phyllis Carlson of Round Lake, Diane Courtade of Chicago, Christine Listello of Plainfield and Wendy Weyrick of Round Lake as well as former Bears Gary Fencik, Keith Van Horne, Otis Wilson, William Perry and Steve McMichael.

Odds & Ends
The Bears had a season-low total of one penalty against Pittsburgh, but got detected of committing three in the game's first eight minutes Sunday. . . . The first shirtless fan began prancing in the aisles with 7:18 left in the first quarter after the temperature had dropped to 9 degrees with a wind chill of minus-7 degrees. . . . A Brad Maynard punt deflected just before halftime was the first one Maynard had deflected (blocked, but went past the line of scrimmage) since Sept. 14, 2003 when the Vikings' Kelly Campbell did it in Minnesota.

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