- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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But when Chicago did it, it had more amplitude -- four turnovers forced by Charles Tillman punching balls loose followed by a presidential endorsement by a Bears fan of the cornerback as defensive player of the year.
In the buildup to Sunday night’s Texans-Bears matchup here at Soldier Field, the Bears-as-a-turnover machine was very much the lead story.
In a league full of imagined slights, that was taken as a real one by the Texans. So they really relished winning the game, between teams that started the night with 7-1 records, and announcing with the 13-6 result in high winds and heavy rain that they’re equipped to travel whatever route necessary to victory.
“You know in every defensive category the Texans are in the top five,” outside linebacker Connor Barwin said. “Obviously, they deserve credit for all those turnovers they get. I think people kind of overlooked our defense as a whole and kind of focused in on what they do as far as turning the ball over. I think we were conscious of that and wanted to show everybody.”
While defensive coordinator Wade Phillips downplayed things in his traditional aw-shucks manner after the game, Barwin was echoing Phillips' Saturday night message.
On this night, it was the Texans with four takeaways to Chicago’s two, it was the Texans who allowed only two third-down conversions and it was the Texans who knocked a starting quarterback out of the game.
“They made more big plays than we did,” Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said.
Houston coach Gary Kubiak said he was exceptionally proud of the overall effort given the weather conditions, environment and caliber of competition.
“We were able to win the way we had to tonight,” he said.
Compare their ability to win in a low-scoring slugfest with the much different kind of victory they notched in Denver in a 31-25 game on Sept. 23. It’s yet another display of balance for a team that can win with offense or defense, by running or passing, with pass rush or secondary play.
Plays came from all over the defense against the Bears, with former Chicago safety Danieal Manning leading the way with a forced fumble and an interception. Glover Quin forced a fumble, too, while inside linebackers Tim Dobbins and Bradie James took care of the recoveries. Kareem Jackson chipped in with an interception as well.
The Bears' often maligned offensive line didn’t yield a sack and did solid work against the usually dominant lineman J.J. Watt, but Dobbins dealt a big blow to the home team with a shot to Jay Cutler toward the end of the first half.
Cutler was flagged for throwing the ball beyond the line of scrimmage, a call that stood up to a challenge, while Dobbins was whistled for hitting Cutler “above the shoulders.” It was a play that left Cutler sprawled on the turf for a bit and with a concussion, though he remained in the game until intermission.
“I was wondering what happened to him, a lot of us were,” said Dobbins, who replaced Brian Cushing in the lineup after Cushing sustained a torn ACL against the Jets on Oct. 8.
“I felt like [the hit] was on time,” Dobbins said.
He wasn’t sure if it was his blow or one delivered by Jackson at the end of a Cutler scramble on the very next play that ultimately meant Jason Campbell would play the second half.
“I have no idea, I have no clue,” he said, before touching on the increasingly taboo topic of knocking a player from the game. “But it was good that he was out, though. I mean you always want to take the quarterback out of the game. I hit him in his chest. I did not hit him in his head. Nowhere near it. I did not touch his helmet.”
Typically Dobbins said he would look to hit a quarterback hip-high, but as Cutler was still trying to make a play, he felt going higher gave him more of a chance to “mess up the throw as well.”
Multiple Texans said that once Campbell was in the game, the Bears simplified what they were trying to do and became easier to defend. Chicago got just as many first downs with Campbell playing as it did with Cutler (four) and more yards, thanks mostly to a 45-yard Campbell-to-Brandon Marshall connection.
Never playing from behind, Houston relied on running back Arian Foster to help eat up the clock. With about eight minutes left he approached Kubiak and asked him for the ball. Foster finished with 29 carries for 102 yards and five catches for 15 yards, including a diving catch on the goal line of a 2-yard throw from Matt Schaub for the game's only touchdown. (Marshall dropped Chicago's best chance.)
Yes, they’re able to do anything and win a game of any shape. But the Texans are built around their ability to run and that defense.
In the buildup to the Texans’ next game, feeling somewhat slighted won’t be an issue.
Jacksonville will bring one of the NFL’s two worst teams to Houston for a game that won’t be played anywhere near prime time.
As for how we all discuss the Texans between now and then, defensive lineman Antonio Smith would like to sing us all a lullaby.
“They can keep sleeping on Bulls on Parade, man,” Smith said, invoking a defensive nickname known more locally that nationally. “Chicago this, Chicago that. I don’t know what the stats were, but it sure looked like we played a better defensive game than they did.
“We knew it was going to be a defensive battle. It’s like a competition. Every time they made a play it just got us more amped up to go out there and make a play on our end. So it worked against them, making good plays.”