|This was another forced fumble caused by Chicago on Sunday. (US Presswire)|
Instead, Chicago put on its most dominant performance of the season. On offense, on defense and on special teams, the Bears gut-punched the Titans in just about every way possible and left Nashville with a 51-20 win.
Offensive efficiency by Jay Cutler? Yes, he went 19-of-26 for 229 yards and three touchdowns. A strong performance by receiver Brandon Marshall? Yes, he caught nine passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns. An impressive running game? Yes, Matt Forte rushed 12 times for 103 yards and a score.
Crafty special teams? Yes, the Bears blocked a punt that was recovered by Corey Wootton for a touchdown early in the game, and Devin Hester returned a punt for 44 yards that put Chicago in great field position in the first half.
And, like usual, a standout defense? Yes, of course. That’s what you get when cornerback Charles Tillman forces four (!) fumbles, and Brian Urlacher contributes another forced fumble and a pick-six interception return.
Sure, Tennessee scored 20 points, including an 80-yard touchdown run by Chris Johnson, but most of that damage occurred long after the game had been decided.
And now that Chicago is 7-1 and playing as well as it has in the Cutler era, you have to wonder if the Bears are a legit Super Bowl contender, especially since NFC North rival Green Bay has struggled for much of the season and some of the early-season shine is off the Vikings. (everybody else on this website but me seems to have gotten that message regarding Chicago).
Now, after a devastatingly-bad Thursday night performance vs. the Packers in Week 2, the Bears have pulled out six straight victories. The Cutler-to-Marshall connection continues to improve drastically, and the Bears' defense continues to prove it’s one of the five best in the league.
They’ve won close ones against bad teams (a 23-22 decision against the Panthers last week), and they’ve blown out bad squads as well. But, depending on how you feel about the Lions, Chicago still hasn’t beaten a top-notch NFL team.
In the next three weeks, though, the Bears will get their chance when they face the Texans, the 49ers and the Vikings. Win a couple of those, and the potential for Chicago to contend for an NFC title will feel a lot more legitimate.
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