- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Chicago Bears used an all-around team performance -- including two defensive touchdowns -- to blast the Dallas Cowboys 34-18 in front of a national television audience on Monday Night Football.
After taking a beating on national TV at the hands of the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 13, the Bears dealt out one of their own as quarterback Jay Cutler completed 75 percent of his throws for two touchdowns and a passer rating of 140.1.
Defensively, the Bears ran up their takeaway total to 14 after intercepting Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo five times, with Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs returning the INTs for scores. The Bears entered the game ranked second in the NFL in takeaways (9).
What it means: This seemed to be a contest that could potentially swing the season negatively for the loser. So the Bears avoided that on the road in a boisterous Cowboys Stadium atmosphere on Monday Night Football. More importantly, they moved into a tie with the Minnesota Vikings atop the NFC North.
With the Bears having finished the game relatively healthy, the schedule seems to set up nicely.
The Bears' D scores, Bears win: Cornerback Charles Tillman and linebacker Lance Briggs helped the defense put two of the team’s touchdowns on the board, and when that transpires, the Bears typically come out on top. Since 2004, the Bears own a 20-5 record when the defense scores a TD. Since 2005, the club is 17-2 under those circumstances.
Tillman scored the first touchdown of the game with his 25-yard interception return that put the Bears ahead 10-0 with 2:38 left in the first half. The pick came on what appeared to be a miscommunication between Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and receiver Dez Bryant.
Briggs followed that up with a 74-yard interception return in the third quarter that made the score 24-7 after Robbie Gould’s extra-point kick.
Here’s a breakdown of Chicago’s defensive touchdowns since 2004: 28 TDs total; 21 interception return TDs, 7 fumble return TDs; 25 games in which the defense scored a TD.
Tillman now has 31 career interceptions, with six returned for touchdowns. Briggs’ pick marked his third returned for a TD.
Déjà vu Wright there: The sight seemed too familiar. But for the second consecutive week cornerback Tim Jennings broke up a pass that was later intercepted by safety Major Wright. Jennings sent the ball flying after hitting Kevin Ogletree as he attempted to bring in a pass from Tony Romo. The ball sailed into the waiting hands of Wright, who last week intercepted a pass tipped by Jennings for a TD.
Wright nabbed another pick in the fourth quarter.
Protection holds: The offensive line faced a formidable task Monday in protecting Cutler against the No. 1 ranked defense of the Dallas Cowboys, led by linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who was expected to give left tackle J’Marcus Webb more than he could handle.
For the most part, however, the Bears held up in protection, allowing just two sacks and very little in the way of pressure. Ware managed to notch a sack. But Cutler helped with the protection by stepping up into pocket or sidestepping rushers and delivering the ball quickly. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice also helped by calling a game in which the Bears first established the run, before going to the air. Tice put in plays that called for shorter drops and quicker passes, in addition to a few designed bootlegs that allowed Cutler to throw on the move.
Cutler’s second sack didn’t come until there was 4:03 left to play, at a time the quarterback probably shouldn’t have even been in the game.
What’s next: The Bears take a day off on Tuesday before returning to the field Wednesday to prepare for another road test next Sunday, when they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars.