Since I did not get a chance to write about the Bears eking out a victory against the 1-5 Carolina Panthers in depth, I will simply say that I blame ESPN analyst and former Minnesota Vikings receiver, Cris Carter. Since Cris no longer plays for the division rival Vikings, I have come to enjoy him on both ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown and Mike in the Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio. Still, I think he put the concept of Bears turnovers out into the universe by making a joke about the Bears possibly turning the ball over and losing to the Panthers before he made his real prediction on Sunday NFL Countdown – Bears victory. Fortunately, the Bears did manage to squeeze out a victory over the Panthers by the narrowest of margins with a final score of 23-22. The victory came in spite of five sacks, three turnovers from Jay Cutler, and inconsistent play from the defensive; although Tim Jennings did return an interception for a touchdown to keep the Bears in the game. No more jokes Cris Carter; that particular one was not very funny!
Just moments before the Bears stepped onto the field against the Tennessee Titans, Brian Urlacher said defensive consistency through all four quarters was going to be the key to victory. Consistent supremacy is what the defense and special teams put on display as the Bears routed the Titans 51 – 20 to advance to 7-1 on the season. Urlacher made good on his own demand with an interception returned for a touchdown in his 176th career start (all in a Bears uniform). Peanut Tillman, with his signature punch-out move, forced four fumbles further adding to his MVP-caliber season performance. The biggest play the defense allowed was an 80-yard touchdown run for Titans running back Chris Johnson. The secondary tried to stick with Johnson, but when he turns on that speed there are not many players in the NFL who can keep up with him.
The special teams also contributed with a punt block returned for a touchdown, and a very exciting run back from Devin Hester that led to an eight yard “rugby-style” touchdown for Matt Forte. Still the 30th ranked pass offense of the Bears still raises questions. For the record, I do find my own statement ironic considering the fact that Brandon Marshall had his first career three-touchdown game. That did get me quite a few fantasy points in the process. In spite of that, the offense never seemed to find a true rhythm; at one point I heard Coach Billick say it is prone to being “non-existent” at times.
This long-time Bears fan does not want a repeat of the 2006 season in which the Bears rode their stellar defense and special teams to the Super Bowl, but their anemic offense finally caught up with them against Peyton Manning and the Colts. As good as this 7-1 team appears to be, the questions about the offense combined with a seemingly soft schedule to date, will be put to the test with the Bears remaining schedule. The Bears will not play a team with a losing record (as of now) again until week 17, including a particularly tough match-up this coming Sunday night against the Houston Texans.
By the end of the game against the Titans, the Bears were so far ahead that they went into victory formation with Jason Campbell taking the snap and Charles Tillman lining up behind him. I look forward to seeing more of that formation for the remainder of this season.