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Sunday, September 19, 2010
Rapid Reaction: Bears 27, Cowboys 20

By Michael C. Wright

ARLINGTON, Texas -- There's quite a bit to cover from what turned out to be an extremely interesting game here at Cowboys Stadium. But honestly, folks, how many of you would have predicted the Bears to be 2-0 or the Cowboys to be winless at this point prior to the start of the season? Admittedly, I would have never guessed this.

What it means: The contest served as further evidence that it would be premature at this point to put a cap on Chicago’s potential for the season. The Bears are clearly still ascending as they gain more comfort with the offense, and it’s still unclear where the growth on both sides of the ball stops. By coming into a new environment with a new offense, the Bears experienced adversity early with injuries to starting left tackle Chris Williams and safety Major Wright. But the club didn’t miss a beat. That says a lot about the Bears’ resilience to perform on the road against a talented Cowboys squad under difficult circumstances. The Bears sputtered offensively on third down, while the defense allowed Dallas to convert too many third downs, yet created three turnovers. Bottom line: Both units performed lights-out in clutch situations, which says more about them than the statistics. By going to 2-0 with an important divisional matchup with the Packers -- followed by two consecutive road games -- the Bears have built some much-needed momentum.

Coaching kudos: Give props to Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice, who managed a chaotic situation Sunday with a heady adjustment. Williams suffered a hamstring injury in the opening series and was replaced by veteran Kevin Shaffer, who was almost immediately called for two holding penalties. Quarterback Jay Cutler, meanwhile, took two sacks during all this. Tice never blinked. For Chicago’s third offensive series, Tice moved Shaffer from left tackle to the right side, and moved Frank Omiyale from his customary right side to the left. The Cowboys never sacked Cutler again and the quarterback threw three touchdown passes.

Injury of note: The Bears sustained two to players they will need immensely in the coming weeks. In addition to Williams' hamstring injury, Wright tweaked his left hamstring on Dez Bryant’s 62-yard punt return in the opening quarter. The severity of the injuries weren’t immediately known, but neither player was able to return to action. Shaffer filled in for Williams, but was later switched to right tackle while Frank Omiayle moved from his customary right-tackle spot to the left side. Moving forward, it’s likely the Bears will keep this alignment if Williams is forced to miss time. Wright, meanwhile, isn’t a starter. But his role was expected to grow in the coming weeks because the Bears like his playmaking ability. Wright’s injury further depletes a thin safety corps.

D.J. Moore spins the turnovers: Second-year nickelback D.J. Moore exuded borderline cockiness earlier in the week when asked whether he was concerned about his matchup with Cowboys receiver Miles Austin. Perhaps the confidence was warranted, when taking into account how Moore -- playing in just his second NFL game -- delivered against the Cowboys. Moore picked off two passes in the first half with both turnovers leading to points for the Bears (two field goals). It’s interesting to note that Bears coach Lovie Smith instructs the nickel corners. So when the defense breaks for individual meetings during the week, Moore goes up to the second floor at Halas Hall for one-on-one sessions with Smith. It appears they’re paying off.

Peppers-sprayed: Never question Marion Barber's toughness. He took a crushing blow from Julius Peppers. But if he wouldn’t have done that, Romo wouldn’t have been able to throw his 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter to Chris Gronkowski. Coming off the edge, Peppers reached the backfield and encountered Barber, who happened to be the only blocker between himself and Romo. Peppers bowled over Barber, knocking the running back flat on his back as Romo released the scoring toss. After the play, Barber regained his footing and gave Peppers a hug. It appeared Barber gained the respect of Peppers by taking that shot, which enabled a Cowboys touchdown. It’s unclear what was said. But you could see the mutual admiration in the interaction, which was refreshing.

D.A. is MIA: Cutler threw the ball to Devin Aromashodu 10 times in the season opener. Against the Cowboys, though, we’re not sure Aromashodu even participated in 10 snaps. It’s believed that Aromashodu’s inactivity against the Cowboys had something to do with the several passes he dropped in Week 1 against the Lions. Keep a close watch to see how this one plays out. It should be interesting.

Strip master Tillman: The Bears benefited from Charles Tillman’s heads-up play all day against the Cowboys. The veteran cornerback stripped the ball away from Austin and Roy Williams, with Moore and Brian Urlacher coming up with the ball for the Bears. Tillman’s first strip in the opening quarter led to a Robbie Gould 38-yard field goal.

What's next: The Bears face a hot Packers team at Soldier Field for a matchup on ESPN’s "Monday Night Football."