The Bears cruised into the 2012 season’s halfway point by utterly eviscerating the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, 51-20. Titans fans came to watch a football game, and were instead treated to ritual sacrifice.
The Bears led 28-2 after their relentless first quarter defensive onslaught, a quarter which saw a blocked punt for a touchdown, a 46 yard pick-six for Brian Urlacher, and two very short touchdown drives set up by a dazzling Devin Hester punt return, and a Charles Tillman forced fumble on Chris Johnson, respectively. On the back end of the Bears merciless, game-long blitzkrieg, Chicago pulled its starters leading 51-20 with 10 minutes left.
Yep, definitely could have been worse. They could have scored 70. The Bears offense was bound to come out of pseudo-hibernation against an atrocious Titans defense. After all, you can’t score 51 points in the NFL with defense alone. Well, maybe this defense could, forcing 5 more turnovers, and the aforementioned Urlacher touchdown, to pad their already-absurd resume.
In an effort to silence critics who feel that the Bears are one-dimensional, relying too much on a supposedly-unsustainable level of defensive play, the Bears deployed their primary offensive weapons on the Titans, and set them to Kill Mode. Cutler threw for 229 yards and 3 touchdowns. Matt Forte logged 148 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. Brandon Marshall scored 3 touchdowns, including a perfect 44-yard fourth quarter strike down the sideline from Jay Cutler. B-Marsh isn’t just competing this season. He is ripping opponents’ hearts out, still beating, “Temple of Doom” style, and telling them simply, “get better”.
This same imagined taunt could be directed at the Bears’ collective opponents thus far. With the exception of a scrappy Panthers team that blew a 12-point fourth quarter lead, and the Detroit Lions, who held the Bears to 13 points, despite turning the ball over 4 times, Chicago’s 5 other wins came by a combined score of 191-68, over the Colts, Rams, Cowboys, Jaguars, and Titans. Of those thoroughly vanquished opponents, only the Colts are .500 or above, at 6-3. Get better, indeed.
The 7-1 Houston Texans, perhaps the AFC’s best team, provide an immediate upgrade to the Bears’ schedule, as they invade Soldier Field for a highly-anticipated bloodbath showdown on Sunday Night Football.
These are two juggernaut squads with realistic visions of Super Bowl glory, and the exact same blemish on their records. Both teams had the crap beaten out of them by the Green Packers in their only loss to date. The Bears lost a defensive battle, in which they surrendered a fake field goal touchdown on a 4th and 26, and watched Cutler throw 4 interceptions. The Texans, meanwhile, ran into Beast Mode Aaron Rodgers, yielding 6 passing touchdowns to the reigning MVP.
But you can throw any notion of Tecmo Bowl-like offensive stats out the window for this matchup, and point squarely at these two dominating defenses as the primary playmakers in this matchup. The Texans are 2nd in the league against the run, the Bears 6th. Foster and Forte will still get their yards, but don’t expect many fireworks in the ground game.
The key defensive statistic heading into this game is the Bears’ absolutely absurd ability to force turnovers. The frightening numbers: 28 turnovers forced in 8 games (17 interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries). 3.5 turnovers per game. 7 defensive touchdowns, all of which came via interception returns, and a blocked punt touchdown. For good measure, the Bears have registered 25 sacks on the season, tied with JJ Watt’s Texans, among others, for the league lead. The Texans, despite their own defensive dominance, have only forced 14 turnovers, just half of the Bears’ total.
While the thought of JJ Watt obliterating a vulnerable Bears offensive line frightens me, I feel that the Bears will find a way to continue their 2-1 turnover edge over the Texans defense. Prediction: Cutler throws 1 interception or fumbles, but the Bears induce 2 turnovers from the Texans. One of these two turnovers will most likely be a Tim Jennings interception, as Matt Schaub looks for other options to counteract Charles Tillman’s inevitable lockdown of Andre Johnson. The second turnover will either be a sack-fumble on Schaub, or Charles Tillman punching the ball away from Arian Foster.
The Bears will do just enough offensively to take advantage of excellent field position provided for them by their defense and special teams mastery, while the Texans will be forced into too many longer drives for their points. The difference in the game will be Charles Tillman containing Andre Johnson more than the Texans can bottle up a virtually unstoppable Brandon Marshall. The Bears shall emerge from this potential Super Bowl preview as an 8-1 machine with a manifest destiny to unleash their opportunistic defensive wizardry and advanced android receiver on all who dare to face them in the victorious weeks to come.
On the Road To Victory:
- Limit Arian Foster. Keep him out of the end zone, and where will Houston’s points come from? Magic?
- Utilize Forte in the screen game to slow down JJ Watt and the Texans pass rush.
- Marshall, Marshall, Marshall! Are the Texans a great defense? Yes. Can they stop the B-Marsh momentum? Make them expend all their resources trying to. Feed the Monster, relentlessly. 15+ targets.
Zeoli’s Alcohol Consumption/Enthusiasm Scale: 7 kegstands, 4 Jack-and-Jacks (yeah, that’s right, no coke, just Jack!), and an entire box of bath salts. Super Bowl preview on Sunday Night Football? Get crunk!
Prediction: DA BEARS - 16, Houston non-Oilers - 13