ARLINGTON, Texas. -- The Chicago Bears weathered the anticipated early storm from the Dallas Cowboys' top-ranked defense and established itself first offensively, before their own defense feasted off a miscommunication between Dez Bryant and Tony Romo to score on a 25-yard interception return by Charles Tillman to take a 10-7 lead.
Romo rebounded and led the Cowboys 80 yards in nine plays and hit Miles Austin for a 10-yard scoring strike with 14 seconds left in the half.
During a scoring drive in which Chicago worked the ball 69 yards down the field on 13 plays, the Bears took 7:07 off the clock, capping the drive with a 43-yard field goal from Robbie Gould. The drive started at the Chicago 7, and quarterback Jay Cutler kept it alive by hitting Brandon Marshall for an 18-yard pass to the 25.
Forte hit the Cowboys for another big play, gashing them up the middle for a 14-yard gain while showing no ill effects from an ankle injury that appeared early on to hobble the running back after a run in the first quarter. Tight end Kellen Davis joined in the act on the drive hauling in a 16-yard pass on third and 10, which incidentally was the first third down conversion of 10 yards or more given up by the Cowboys all season. The drive stalled at the 25, and Gould kicked the field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, on the ensuing drive, Chicago’s defense joined the early scoring party with Tillman picking off the 31st pass of his career, returning it for a TD. The play marked Chicago’s 26th defensive touchdown since 2004, and the Bears have reeled off a 19-5 record since then when they score on defense.
RUN THE BALL
With 42 yards in the first half, Forte is averaging 6 yards per carry and because of Chicago’s ability to run the ball, the Cowboys haven’t been able to pin back their ears and come after Cutler all the time on passing downs. Besides that, if the Bears run the ball, they take time off the clock while keeping Romo and the Cowboys’ offense off the field.
Given the speed in which Dallas marched down the field to score before the half, it would probably serve the Bears well to keep the Cowboys offense off the field.
CONTINUE TO PRESSURE ROMO
The Bears sacked Romo once in the first half, and while it’s not imperative they continue to sack him, it is important for the front four to keep coming after the quarterback. Romo’s INT to Tillman came on a miscommunication with Bryant that came as a result of pressure from Chicago’s front seven. So that needs to continue. Besides, Romo has built a reputation for throwing ill-advised passes under pressure.
SHAKE OFF THE LONG DRIVE
Dallas’ late second-quarter scoring drive looked relatively easy, but the Bears can’t let that linger going into the second half. After all, the Cowboys moved the ball with no-huddle hurry-up offense, which limits the defense from putting substitutions out on the field. So to own a 3-point lead at intermission on the road against one of the better teams in the NFC is somewhat of a blessing. Rather than watch that advantage evaporate, the Bears need to set upon building on the lead.
The Bears take the ball to start the second half, and can start by pounding the Cowboys with the run.