Five Things We Learned: Bears-Cowboys
October, 2, 2012
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com
Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Getty ImagesLance Briggs matched Charles Tillman's pick-6 with one of his own, a 74-yard return in the third quarter.ARLINGTON, Texas -- Here are Five Things We Learned following the Chicago Bears' 34-18 rout of the Dallas Cowboys:
1. Opponents better not fall behind: Good luck trying to overcome a second half deficit against this veteran Bears’ defense. The Bears are now 53-10 under Lovie Smith when they lead at halftime. Quite simply, the Bears have always been a team built to hold a lead because of terrific special teams and an opportunistic defense that forces turnovers, sometimes in bunches. Since 2004, the Bears own a 45-9 record when they win the turnover battle, a feat that is easier to accomplish when the other team is playing from behind and therefore forced to pass more in an attempt to catch up. Four of Tony Romo's five interceptions came in the second half when Dallas went down 10 points. See the coincidence?
2. Mike Tice deserves a game ball: Tice put together a solid game plan going into Monday night, one that featured a heavy dose of the run early that set up the pass later in the second half against a weary Cowboys’ defense. Not only was it a balanced attack (28 pass attempts, 25 rushing attempts not including three Cutler scrambles) but the offense gave the necessary help to left tackle J’Marcus Webb to help slow down DeMarcus Ware. Elite players require extra attention. The Bears failed to devote the necessary resources to stop Clay Matthews, and they got burned. Lesson learned. Ware constantly was being double-teamed Monday night, and even though he still finished with a sack and forced fumble, he had little impact on the game. The Bears’ passing attack also worked as Brandon Marshall worked the middle of the field and the sidelines. Tice also took the high road when it came to Devin Hester saying he wanted the ball more. Hester got his chances and capitalized, making a spectacular, diving 34-yard touchdown catch that swung momentum in the Bears' favor for good. After a two-week hiatus, the offense was back, due in large part to its coordinator.
3. Jay Cutler rose to the ocassion: Cutler could not afford to have three bad games in a row. He did not. In perhaps his finest game in recent memory, Cutler passed for 275 yards, two touchdowns and posted a quarterback rating of 140.1 in front of a national audience. He seemed to be in total command, especially in the second half when he simply picked the Dallas defense apart. How the Cowboys could leave Marshall, of all people, wide open for that final touchdown is inexcusable. Cutler had his way for most of the night, and even got helped out by tight end Kellen Davis for the first time this season. To sum it up, Cutler played like a franchise quarterback is supposed to play on Monday night, minus the regrettable snub of Tice on the sideline that was captured by television cameras. I'll say this for Cutler: he doesn't change who he is for anybody. At least he'll never be accused of being a phony.
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireJay Cutler's 140.1 passer rating on Monday was the second-highest of his Bears career.
4. Lance Briggs has speed to burn: Be honest, did you know Briggs could run that fast before his 74-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter? I only knew because I've had multiple players tell me over the years that Briggs is the type of athletic freak that could not work out for weeks, show up to run a 100-yard dash, and beat almost everybody on the team. That's just how it is. The guy is a great athlete, and an even better weakside linebacker. GM Phil Emery's decision to award Briggs a contract extension in the offseason was a stroke of genius. Briggs reported to camp in great shape and appears to be well on his way to earning his eighth straight Pro Bowl selection. While Brian Urlacher might be in the twilight of his career, the 30-year-old Briggs shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
5. Dallas is in trouble: Good luck, Jason Garrett. From a Cowboys perspective, that's about as bad as it gets. From the defense losing sight of Marshall, to Romo tossing five picks, and to Dez Bryant absolutely killing his team over and over again with horrible mistakes, you get the feeling the Cowboys are going to be lucky to stay at .500 as they play four of their next five games on the road following their bye week. The Dallas fans were so numb in the second half they stopped cheering for first downs and long gains. Seriously, the stadium was silent. At times, you forgot the game was being played in Texas. Scanning the crowd and the pregame parking lots, there must have been well over 10,000 Bears fans in Cowboys Stadium on Monday night. And in the fourth quarter, it sounded like there were 50,000 Bears' supporters in attendance.