- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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1. Who needs the offense?: On a serious note, the Bears will eventually need their offense to produce earlier in games, but that's an issue for another day. This game is once again about the defense and the records it seems to set on a weekly basis. Seven defensive touchdowns is an absurd amount for an entire season, much less through eight games, but the Bears defense keeps finding ways to score at a frantic pace, even if Brian Urlacher's trot to the end zone was a tad slower than some of the team's prior pick-sixes. Perhaps the only thing that can derail this defense would be a rash of injuries, which the Bears have avoided up until now, even though starting defensive linemen Israel Idonije and Henry Melton got a little banged up in the win. A healthy Bears defense in January makes this team a legitimate Super Bowl contender. I just don't know how that can be disputed after watching the veteran unit dominate for the first eight games. Sure, the schedule is about to get tougher, but the defense has taken on every challenge up to this point and won. Why should anybody expect that to change unless the stars begin to get hurt?
2. Charles Tillman is in the running for NFL Defensive Player of the Year: Bears linebacker Lance Briggs called Tillman NFL Defensive Player of the Year material in the postgame locker room. Hard to argue. The entire football world is talking about Tillman's four-forced-fumble game versus the Titans, a ridiculously high amount even for Tillman, who is known throughout the league as the master of the strip. Tillman has long been a standout performer on this defense, but the life of a No. 1 NFL cornerback is not an easy one. But Tillman has excelled in nearly every category this year; from seven forced fumbles, to shutting down Calvin Johnson on “Monday Night Football” to returning a pair of interceptions for touchdowns. If Tillman keeps this up, the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Month will have to make extra room in his trophy case for some additional hardware in a couple of months.
3. Special teams set tone: The scuffling Bears' offense got a shot in the arm when Sherrick McManis blocked a first quarter punt that Corey Wootton scooped up and returned five yards for a touchdown. It cannot be stated enough how valuable McManis has been on special teams since the Bears got him from Houston via trade, and he proved it again on Sunday with his speed rush from the outside on the block. Plus, Devin Hester nearly busted loose for a score on his 44-yard punt return that gave the Bears great starting field position on Tennessee's 8-yard line. Basically, special teams gave the Bears 14 points in the first quarter. That's called doing your job and then some.
4. The screen game with Matt Forte can be a valuable weapon: Forte's 47 yard reception on a second quarter screen pass was a thing of beauty. People forget sometimes how elusive Forte can be in the open field. The Bears should never forget, and should be mindful to get Forte involved in the passing game based on his track record of being a terrific receiver out of the backfield. Brandon Marshall can't catch every pass. I'd continue to try and get Forte more touches. Ironically, he had just 14 touches against Tennessee (six fewer than last week versus Carolina) but still managed to rack up 148 all-purpose yards. Imagine if the Bears gave him the ball 25-30 times a game.
5. Bears fans answer the call, again: In what is becoming standard operating procedure, Bears fans made Sunday's game at LP Field feel like a home game for the visitors from Chicago. Don't think the Bears players and fans don't notice the effort when they arrive to the team hotel or at road stadiums. The fans that made the trip this weekend to support the Bears picked a winner. Nashville is a great town within driving distance of Chicago that boasts an alive downtown area full of spots for fans to gather. And the Titans' stadium, although not a new one by NFL standards, is an above average venue to watch a game. They do it right in Nashville, except when it comes to constructing a professional football team.
Jeff Dickerson's five things we learned from the Bears' win in Nashville.