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 beat down 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 the 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.