Sunday, September 23, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Bears 23, Rams 6
By Michael C. Wright
CHICAGO -- Despite all the additions and lofty expectations for the offense, defense -- as usual -- carried the Chicago Bears to a 23-6 triumph Sunday over the St. Louis Rams at Soldier Field.
Led by Israel Idonije (2.5 sacks), the Bears sacked Rams quarterback Sam Bradford six times and picked him off twice, with Major Wright returning an interception 45 yards for a touchdown, in addition to limiting the signal-caller to a passer rating of 39.2.
Coming off a meltdown in a Week 2 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Chicago’s offense -- which operated without starting running back Matt Forte -- sputtered, but showed small signs of improvement.
Here’s a closer look:
What it means: The entire NFC North entered this week’s games with 1-1 records, so the Bears needed a win to stay in the mix atop the division standings. Obviously, it’s still early in the race. But the Bears didn’t want to put themselves in a hole so early in the season and fall into a situation where they’re playing catch-up.
Besides that, winning is the best way to rebound from a devastating defeat like the one suffered on Sept. 13 at Green Bay.
Front four still fearsome: Chicago’s front four built on its impressive start to the season by generating six sacks of Bradford on Sunday to run up their season total to 14.
The Bears entered the game tied for second in the NFL with eight sacks, accounting for 47 yards in losses. Interestingly, every one of those sacks had come from the defensive line. But Nick Roach broke the string of sacks by defensive linemen by getting in on the action for the club’s linebackers.
Missed opportunity: Devin Hester's drop of a sure touchdown pass from Jay Cutler in the fourth quarter seemed to sum up a day of missed opportunities by the Bears' offense. The Bears had just driven 11 plays, and siphoned away close to six minutes off the clock only to settle for a 22-yard Robbie Gould field goal that made the score 13-6.
Hester’s miss was just one of many by the Bears, who suffered multiple dropped passes from Brandon Marshall and some errant throws by Cutler.
The offense hoped to rebound in front of the home crowd after last Thursday’s embarrassing performance. The unit showed improvement in several areas, but for the most part sputtered.
Major playmaker? Wright has dealt with his fair share of criticism throughout his three-year tenure with the team, ranging from questions about durability to his grasp of Chicago’s defensive system. Well, Wright finally seems to be dispelling the doubts.
In the fourth quarter Sunday, Wright intercepted a Bradford pass intended for Danny Amendola with 9:06 left to play and returned it for a 45-yard TD to make the score 20-6 after the extra-point kick. Tim Jennings, who also picked off a pass late in the game, tipped the ball right into Wright’s hands. But on the return for a TD, Wright showcased the physical traits the Bears raved about when they drafted him with a third-round pick in 2010.
Wright recently admitted that a lack of knowledge of the team’s system contributed to his problems over the first two years of his career. But in the offseason, Wright said he put forth more of an effort to gain a firm grasp of the intricacies of the defense, and that appears to be paying off.
Wright entered Sunday’s game with 15 tackles in three starts.
Windy City: Kickers took advantage of light east winds in the first half with Gould connecting on a 54-yard field goal in the first quarter, and Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein hitting on a 56-yarder with 27 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Gould’s 54-yard bomb was his longest since Dec. 11 of last season when he booted a 57-yard field goal at Denver. Since Dec. 5, 2010, Gould is 6-of-6 on field goal attempts of 50-plus yards.
Two No. 1s down, three to go: Bradford marked the second of five No. 1 overall picks the Bears will face this season. The club faced 2012 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck in Week 1 and came away with three interceptions in 41-21 victory over the Colts and limited Bradford, the first pick of 2010, on Sunday to 152 yards, two interceptions and a passer rating of 39.2.
Each of the club’s first four home games features No. 1 overall picks. The next two are Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, the first pick of ’09, and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the top pick in ’11. The Bears wrap up matchups against No. 1s in Week 11 when they face Alex Smith (No. 1 overall in ’05) at San Francisco on Nov. 19.
Best actor goes to: No contest, Bears right tackle Gabe Carimi wins. After locking up with Rams defensive end William Hayes at the end of a Michael Bush run, Carimi flopped to the turf in an attempt to draw a penalty. If you recall, Carimi was called in the team’s loss to the Packers on Sept. 13 for a personal foul for continuing after the whistle was blown.
Hayes didn’t appear to be doing that when Carimi appeared to throw up his arms and basically launch himself backward onto the ground.
Bad acting, Gabe. You deserve a Razzie. It was certainly entertaining, though, drawing giggles throughout the Soldier Field press box.
What’s next: The Bears receive another opportunity on the national stage next Monday night when they face the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium. Surely the memory of the meltdown at Lambeau Field on Sept. 13 will remain fresh on the club’s mind in preparation for the Cowboys. So the Bears will work hard to avoid a repeat performance in the national spotlight.