Pompei: Bears reach high point, but questions remain
(MCT) — NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As one, the Bears and their thousands of fans merrily marched out of town late Sunday after invading Nashvegas and making it their own.
They come home wearing cowboy hats and pointy boots, carrying pieces of what once were the Tennessee Titans.
They had taken over the streets and they had taken over LP Field. “Soldier Field South” Lovie Smith called it.
They never allowed the Titans a glimmer of hope. They burned down their offense and trampled their defense.
The only way the domination of this city would have been more complete is if the Bears had walked away with a CMA award.
You don’t want to hear them sing, though, unless it is some updated version of “The Super Bowl Shuffle.”
You want to see them play.
You want to see them punching out the ball, intercepting it and making big plays on special teams. And then, throwing touchdown passes. That too.
This was a script the Bears have followed before, but they haven’t delivered all their lines as well as they did Sunday.
This was the Bears at their high point so far. This was the first time they put together three phases like this.
But even in the glow of all this, there are two things worth questioning about the Bears as they head into the meat of their schedule.
Can they continue to keep playing offense on defense? And can they continue to do more than “hold ‘em” on offense?
Takeaways are lifeblood to this team. But the Bears are delivering them at a rate that may be impossible to maintain. This same group of core defenders never has approached this rate previously.
Charles Tillman had four forced fumbles Sunday. That’s more than he has had in eight whole seasons. He has had more than four in only one season, when he had six in 2009.
Brian Urlacher’s interception return for a touchdown was the team’s seventh this season. With two more, the Bears will tie the NFL single-season record held by the 1961 Chargers.
They now have 30 takeaways for the season. The Giants, the next closest team, are four behind. The Bears are on pace for 60. The NFL record is 63 by the 1984 Seahawks.
Urlacher said in 21 years of football, dating to ninth grade, he never has seen a defense come up with takeaways like this. But safety Chris Conte, who recovered a fumble Sunday, is convinced they can continue coming at this rate.
“We’ve been doing it all year,” he said. “It’s just the way we play. It’s the way we practice. They happen in practice. They happen in the game. It’s not coincidence. There’s no luck involved.”
It is one thing to get Titans to cough it up. It will be another to get Texans and 49ers to do the same.
No team has committed fewer turnovers than the Texans with six. The 49ers have taken good care of the ball, too, with only nine giveaways.
Perhaps if the takeaways tail off, the offense can compensate. As good as the Bears should feel about getting 37 points from the offense, they should also feel they can do better.
The offense started slowly as usual. The only scoring the Bears offense was involved with on their first three possessions was allowing a Titans safety.
Once Devin Hester gifted them the ball on the Titans’ 8 with a 44-yard punt return, the offense took off, showing it deserved a seat at the adults’ table. But still there were some troubling breakdowns — a sack/strip of Jay Cutler on the Titans’ 13 and two other drives stalling inside the 10.
“We stumbled a little bit offensively,” Cutler said. “In the red zone, we stumbled a little bit down there. The turnover was my fault. I was trying to do too much. Definitely some things to work on offensively, but we’re headed in the right direction. We just have to put together a four-quarter game at some point.”
It is the offense that will determine how far the Bears go. If the offense can run the ball, hit big pass plays like it did Sunday and clean up some of the missteps, there is no telling how far this team can go — and where these crazy Bears fans will be traveling come February.
“A lot of Chicagoans feel the way we do — that this is a special year,” Briggs said in explaining the phenomenon of traveling crowd support. “People want to see special things.”
These are not the 1985 Bears. But this is starting to feel a little like 1985.
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