Chicago Bears: Tennessee Titans
Idonije finished second on the Chicago Bears last season with 7.5 sacks in 11 starts.
The 32-year-old versatile defensive lineman has been one of the Bears' most productive pass rushers since becoming a fixture in the starting lineup in 2010, opposite Pro Bowler Julius Peppers.
Idonije lost a little playing time last season to Corey Wootton but because of his versatility, Idonije was able to slide inside to defensive tackle when the Bears switched to their nickel defense.
A nine-year NFL veteran, Idonije has been a member of the Bears for nearly his entire career and is very active in the community. Idonije was one of three finalists for the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2010.
The Bears re-signed Idonije to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million last offseason. While the Bears have expressed interest in Idonije returning, it's believed he would have to accept less money to remain in Chicago.
Week 9 Report Card: Chicago Bears 51, Tennessee Titans 20
Matt Forte scored a touchdown and put together just his second 100-yard rushing performance of the season. Forte averaged 8.6 yards per attempt, and the offensive line dominated as the team finished with 160 yards total. Interestingly, Chicago's offensive line seems better suited to run block than pass protect. Yet every time the Bears have success running the ball, the coaching staff decides to get cute with passing plays. From this vantage point, Forte and the rushing attack are the keys to success for this offense. The Bears need to lean on the ground game much more.
Jay Cutler's 138.1 passer rating is somewhat deceiving, as are his three touchdown passes to Brandon Marshall, who finished with nine grabs for 122 yards. As usual, the offense started slow and, despite the dominating victory, the passing game remains a bit of a concern moving forward. The Bears built a 26-point lead in the first quarter, which allowed them to remain two-dimensional. But how well will the Bears be able to throw when the opponent knows they're going to pass it? So far in those situations, the Bears haven't performed. Pass protection also remains a concern.
Chris Johnson busted an 80-yard run late in the game. So the Bears definitely drop one letter grade for the lapse. If you subtract that run, the Titans would have finished with just 79 yards. The Bears hadn't allowed a 100-yard rushing performance in 18 games (Oct. 10, 2011 at Detroit). So even though the Bears thoroughly dominated the Titans, allowing Johnson to hit the century mark should be frustrating for the club on some level.
Matt Hasselbeck threw the ball 35 times, but finished with fewer than 200 yards through the air. Brian Urlacher delivered a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown, and the pass rush managed to sack Hasselbeck twice. The Bears also forced fumbles in the passing game. Tim Jennings gave up a touchdown against Nate Washington, but actually covered the play well. The Bears allowed just one completion for more than 19 yards all day, which is impressive considering the Titans played most of the game in comeback mode.
Sherrick McManis blocked a punt that Corey Wootton scooped up and returned for a touchdown, and Devin Hester broke a 44-yard punt return that set up Forte's touchdown. Adam Podlesh finished with a 38.3-yard net average, and landed only one of his three punts inside the 20. Robbie Gould connected on all three of his field goal attempts, and the kickoff team limited Darius Reynaud to a 20.7-yard average on returns.
It's telling that the Tennessee coaching staff warned the Titans all week about Chicago's penchant for forcing turnovers, yet the Bears still found a way to feast off of them in a road game. That speaks to solid coaching, and the fact the staff has built a culture within that locker room in which turnovers and scoring on defense are paramount to overall team success. Offensively, there's still plenty of work to do in terms of play calling and pass protection up front. The Bears are too reliant on Marshall in the passing game, and need to find ways to successfully deploy and utilize other options.
NASHVILLE -- Chicago Bears fans took over the streets of downtown Nashville on Saturday night.
Then the team took control of LP Field the next day, destroying the Tennessee Titans 51-20 in a road outing that seemed more like a game at Soldier Field. Throughout the beatdown in a stadium filled more with fans from the visiting team than the home squad, chants of “Let’s go Bears” reverberated all day.
The Bears scored touchdowns in every phase in the first half -- on special teams with Corey Wootton’s blocked punt return; on offense with Matt Forte’s 8-yard run; and on defense, thanks to Brian Urlacher running back an interception 46 yards for a TD.
Jay Cutler and the Bears' offense jumped into the mix too, with the quarterback slinging three touchdown passes to Brandon Marshall in unquestionably the team’s most dominating performance of the season.
What it means: The Bears maintained their NFC North lead with a dominating performance on the road.
More takeaways: The Bears entered Sunday’s game ranked No. 2 in the league with 23 takeaways, but racked up four more in the first half alone against the Titans. Charles Tillman accounted for three of the team’s four forced fumbles, with Urlacher forcing another in addition to returning a Matt Hasselbeck interception 46 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Kelvin Hayden boosted the team’s takeaway total to 28 with his fumble recovery in the fourth quarter.
Another defensive TD: Urlacher’s first-quarter INT return for a TD gave the defense its seventh INT return score of the season, which ties for the third most in a season in NFL history. The 1961 Chargers (9) and 1998 Seahawks (8) are the only two teams to score more defensive TDs.
With Urlacher’s score, the Bears became the first team in NFL history to return seven INTs for TDs in the first eight games of a season. The Bears are also the first team with INT returns for TDs in five games during a six-game span since the ’61 Chargers.
Obviously, it’s no secret the Bears win when they score defensive touchdowns. Since 2004, the Bears have scored 32 defensive touchdowns, including 25 on INT returns, and are 23-5 when they score a defensive touchdown. Since 2005 the Bears hold a 20-2 record when they score on defense.
AFC South champions: The Bears obviously own the AFC South, based on what they’ve done in three matchups against teams in that division this season. The Bears scored 41 points or more in all three of their wins against AFC South foes, starting with the Colts in the opener, followed by the Jaguars and the Titans.
In the three wins, the Bears outscored AFC South opponents 133-44.
What’s next: The Bears will receive the customary “victory Monday” when they return home to Halas Hall, before beginning preparation Wednesday to host the 7-1 Houston Texans in a prime-time clash next Sunday night at Soldier 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.
But from the Tennessee Titans' perspective, their best shot to win on Sunday might hinge on their ground game led by Chris Johnson.
Johnson hit a milestone this year when he became the second fastest player in NFL history to reach 6,000 rushing yards (70 games), but the start of his 2012 season can be classified as forgettable, at best. However, the tailback appears to have turned the corner. Johnson has gone over 100 rushing yards in two of his last five games -- he nearly hit the mark again with 99 yards on the ground last week in Tennessee's overtime loss to Indianapolis -- and is tied for seventh in the league in rushing (595 yards) and 13th in yards from scrimmage (723).
After another slow start to the season, Johnson has rushed for 385 yards over the past three games. Will he be the first running back in 18 games to top 100 yards against the Bears on Sunday? Our panel weighs in on that and more:
Fact or Fiction: Chris Johnson will be the first running back to rush for over 100 yards against the Bears this season.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. The Bears are still likely to win the game, but it sounds as if the Titans plan to commit to the run on Sunday. If that turns out to be Tennessee's game plan, then it's a good bet Johnson goes over 100 yards rushing. After a miserable start to the season, Johnson has topped the 100-yard mark twice in the past five weeks, and had 99 yards rushing in Tennessee's last game against the Indianapolis Colts. So far the Bears have given up virtually nothing on the ground and enter Sunday with the NFL's No. 1 defense in fewest rushing yards allowed. But if the Titans give Johnson the ball enough times, he is talented enough to run for 100 yards, even against the highly-rated Bears' defense.
Michael C. Wright: Fiction. The Bears haven't allowed a 100-yard rushing performance in more than a year, 18 games to be exact (Oct. 10 2011, when Jahvid Best gained 163 yards). So it's highly unlikely that takes place Sunday in Tennessee. Besides, Johnson hasn't exactly been lighting it up. Johnson's last 100-yard rushing performance came on Oct. 21 (195 yards) against a Buffalo Bills' defense ranked last at stopping the run. Chicago's penetrating interior defenders will make Johnson indecisive and force him to run laterally instead of straight ahead. My guess is Johnson's numbers Sunday could look similar to what he did the last time he faced the Bears (14 attempts, 8 yards) on Nov. 9, 2008.
Scott Powers: Fiction. There are two reasons why this won't happen: Johnson has been inconsistent this season, and the Bears defense is just too good. I expected something closer to when Johnson ran for 24 yards against the Minnesota Vikings two weeks ago. On the season, he has gone over 100 yards just twice. It also helps that the Titans' passing attack isn't lethal.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Mostly because Johnson won't get the carries if the Bears get a decent lead. I think you'll see one big (30-plus-yard run) and a few other 10-plus-yard carries for Johnson, but he's not going to shred the Bears' run defense, which according to Football Outsiders, ranks fourth in the league. The Bears' defensive line will stop Johnson inside, but I think his recent resurgence shows he can still get yards outside. I'm pretty confident the Bears will be ready.
"He has a great deal of confidence when he drops back to throw the ball," Babineaux said on "The Carmen, Jurko & Harry Show" on ESPN 1000. "And the things that have gotten him in trouble sometimes is holding the ball and wanting to make the big throw. When he does do that, the defensive line knows if the first move doesn't work, sometimes the counter-move will get them home. And they have to continue to have that mindset.
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Shaw landed in Tennessee where he quickly became a core member of their special teams units. He's been voted special teams captain in each of the past two years, and is second on the team with six special teams tackles through eight games. Shaw also had a key punt block in Tennessee's 26-23 home win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 11.
That could explain why the veteran Tennessee Titans quarterback has experienced a modest level of success against the Bears' style of defense. Hasselbeck owns a 3-3 lifetime record versus the Bears, but in the last two meetings, he's passed for six touchdowns and zero interceptions while a member of the Seattle Seahawks.
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