It's rare when I can come out of watching a Bears game with zero complaints, but I honestly came out of the Monday night game vs. the Cowboys with zero complaints.
No, it wasn't a perfect game: Jay Cutler had a bad fumble; Kellen Davis had a terrible drop on what would've been a first down; the Cowboys offense went right down the field like it was a piece of cake to get the momentum going into halftime; Lovie Smith made a boneheaded decision to accept an illegal contact penalty and give the Bears a 1st and 10 at the 34-yard line, rather than decline it for a 2nd and 2-ish at the 27-yard line (and the Bears ended up settling for a field goal).
But it was still pretty damn close to perfect.
A huge win on the road, in primetime, against a very good NFC team (Remember: The Cowboys beat the defending champion Giants on the road).
A statement game.
As has been the case in all four games now, the defense was absolutely tremendous, intercepting five Tony Romo passes (Major Wright twice, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, and D.J. Moore), and returning two of them for touchdowns (Tillman and Briggs). That's half as many times as Romo was intercepted all season in 2011 (10 INT in 16 games).
It all got started with the Tillman pick-six (link to video of the play). With 2:46 to go in the first half and the Bears leading 3-0, the Cowboys faced a 3rd and 9. The Bears brought linebacker Lance Briggs and safety Chris Conte on the blitz, while Brian Urlacher and rookie Shea McClellin also showed blitz as linebackers, before dropping into coverage. This is something we've seen a bit over the last two weeks with McClellin, and something people thought would happen after the defensive end played outside linebacker at Boise State. In front of them, on the defensive line, were Israel Idonije, Henry Melton, and Julius Peppers.
Here's an image of how the defense looked pre-snap (Conte is blitzing off the edge at the bottom right; from top to bottom: McClellin, Urlacher, and Briggs showing blitz):
Lovie Smith/Rod Marinelli's defense usually doesn't use too many linebacker or defensive back blitzes; they like to bring pressure with the front four, and that's certainly worked just fine thus far as the Bears came into week four leading the NFL in sacks. And with that in mind, this defensive alignment clearly confused/surprised Romo, and he panicked when Conte came flying into his face off the edge (although Dez Bryant didn't help the matter by running what appeared to be the incorrect route as well). The result was an easy pick-six for Tillman, a 10-0 Bears lead, and me running around the living room like a kid on Christmas morning.
But, the Cowboys quickly responded as Romo led an impressive drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Miles Austin, to cut the Bears lead to 10-7, and rip the momentum away from the Bears going into halftime.
And that's when Cutler came to the rescue. After struggling badly over the last two weeks, the quarterback put together quite possibly his best half as a Bear.
Cutler was 11 of 12 for 219 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, with some of the throws being remarkable throws that only a few people on the planet could make. One such terrific throw was on this 34-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Devin Hester, to cap off a beautiful second half-beginning drive, and give the Bears a 17-7 lead:
It appeared that, again, the Cowboys would soon get those seven points back, after DeMarcus Ware got a strip sack on Cutler, giving the Cowboys the ball at the Bears' 27-yard line.
However, on the very next play, Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton got to Romo, and forced what was ruled an interception (was basically a strip sack, though) that landed in the hands of Lance Briggs. Briggs then put an awesome juke move on a Cowboys offensive lineman, and ran 74 yards into the end zone to give the Bears a 24-7 lead with just over six minutes left in the third quarter.
Here's (crappy, but it's the only embeddable video I could find) video of the play:
That would pretty much serve as the knockout blow. Romo would go on to throw a couple more interceptions, and Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall (who was fantastic all night: 7/138/1) had the easiest 31-yard touchdown reception you'll ever see:
Former Bears quarterback Kyle Orton led a Cowboys touchdown drive in the final minute against the Bears' second-string defense to make the game look a bit closer, but make no mistake about it: This was just a dominating performance by Da Bears in the 'Big D'.
Offense: Quarterback Jay Cutler.
It's a shame that the national media will focus on Cutler's sideline "incident" with offensive coordinator Mike Tice, because he was outstanding. The quarterback was 18 of 24, for 275 yards, two touchdowns, and a 140.1 QB rating. He was just throwing darts all over the field.
It's funny what Cutler can do when the pass blocking is actually solid, right? It certainly was good last night, and that's not something I expected against the Cowboys and pass-rushing star DeMarcus Ware. The offensive line was certainly "game ball" worthy, as was Brandon Marshall.
Defense: Defensive Tackle Henry Melton.
An absolute monster so far on the season with four sacks in four games from the defensive tackle position. He had one in this game, and as I said earlier, you could've counted the Briggs interception as a Melton sack and forced fumble, because that's pretty much what it was.
Melton is in a contract year, and if he keeps playing at this level, a big payday is on the way.
Extra Game Ball
That looked like a Bears home game (heck, look at the crowd in the picture at the top of the post for proof), and after the game, many Bears players commented on how awesome it was. Great stuff, and hopefully Bears fans can keep filling up the other road venues like that this year.
Running back Matt Forte suited up after being a game-time decision with an ankle sprain, and on his very first carry, limped off the field after aggravating the injury. He came back into the game, and finished with 13 carries for 52 yards. That's still a rock-solid four yards per carry, but he clearly wasn't 100%, and it's fair to question the Bears' decision to make him active for the game. Still, you have to respect Forte for gutting it out.
Julius Peppers and Chris Conte each went to the sidelines with injuries during the game, but both players are reportedly fine.
Bears at Jaguars, Sunday at 3:05 PM CT.
TV: FOX (Broadcasters: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, and Tony Siragusa).
Line: Bears -5.5
It's never easy on the road, and you worry about the Bears being too caught up in last night's victory. However, they're significantly more talented than the Jaguars, and it's hard to see second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert doing much against this Bears defense right now. Additionally, the Bears' defensive line should be able to have a big game against a Jaguars offensive line that has struggled in pass protection.
Oh, and the Jaguars' defense only has two sacks on the season, so the Bears offensive line has a good chance of giving Jay Cutler time to throw again.
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