Sunday, November 4, 2012
Halftime adjustments: Rest key players
Brian Urlacher notched the Bears' seventh Pick-6 this season in the first half.
NASHVILLE -- The Chicago Bears put points on the board with every phase Sunday, setting a franchise-record by scoring 28 points in the first quarter of a 31-5 first-half stomping of the Tennessee Titans at LP Field.
Chicago’s usually slow-starting offense lived up to its reputation. The team’s first three possessions on offense resulted in two punts, followed by a safety when officials enforced a illegal-use-of-hands penalty in the end zone on left tackle J’Marcus Webb.
Luckily, the Bears received their usual contributions from the defense, which lit up the scoreboard on a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Brian Urlacher. The special-teams unit put up points, too, thanks to Corey Wootton scooping up a punt blocked by Sherrick McManis and returning it 5 yards for a TD.
Matt Forte, with the help of a strong push from the line, dragged Titans defenders into the end zone for the offense’s first score of the day, an 8-yard touchdown with 3:40 left in the first quarter that put the Bears ahead 7-2 after Robbie Gould’s extra-point kick. The defense gifted yet another opportunity for the offense less than a minute later when Charles Tillman forced his second fumble of the afternoon, with Chris Conte diving on the loose ball at the Tennessee 16.
Gould booted a 40-yarder early in the second quarter to extend Chicago’s lead. But the Titans answered with a Rob Bironas 39-yard field goal at the end of the half to make the score 31-5.
Let’s look at some potential halftime adjustments:
PULL KEY PLAYERS With a tough slate of upcoming matchups against Houston, San Francisco, Minnesota and Seattle it’s not worth the risk to leave in key players such as quarterback Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall during this blowout. The sack Cutler took near the end of the first half should give the team reservations about playing the quarterback in the second half with the team leading by such a large margin.
A lead like this provides the perfect opportunity to rest some of the banged up players. Israel Idonije suffered an ankle injury in the first half and defensive tackle Henry Melton was also shaken up. The team didn’t provide an update on the condition of either player, but if the Bears are smart, they’ll keep both of them out in the second half.
DON’T LET THEM BACK IN During blowouts like this, there’s a natural tendency to become a little lax on defense. The Bears haven’t given up a touchdown yet, but they did allow the Titans to score on a 39-yard Rob Bironas field goal with two seconds remaining in the first half.
A 26-point lead is definitely a huge edge for the Bears. But that’s not an insurmountable deficit for the Titans to overcome. After all, Tennessee is currently in the midst of one of its most embarrassing performances of the season. So the Titans will definitely be looking to mount a rally in the second half.
If the Bears come out on offense and put points on the board to start the second half, consider any potential Titans comeback attempt snuffed out before it even starts.
The Bears rolled up 74 yards and a Forte TD on the ground in the first half, and the team needs to continue pounding the ball to keep the clock running to get this game over with as quickly as possible. Obviously, there’s a strong likelihood that the team might rest Forte. But even with Forte out of the mix, the Bears can feed the ball to Michael Bush and Armando Allen in the second half. Bush and Allen could use the repetition. The offensive line could use the reps as well to sharpen up the timing.