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Thursday, November 18, 2010
Rapid Reaction: Bears 16, Dolphins 0

By Michael C. Wright

MIAMI -- The Chicago Bears turned a short week of preparation into a defensive shutout of a depleted team Thursday night in a 16-0 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Here are a few quick thoughts from the Bears’ third straight victory:

What it means: Like the Green Bay Packers, the Bears are also on a three-game winning streak. But the Bears continue to lead an NFC North race that is down to just two teams. Chicago’s victory over the Dolphins raises the stakes for the Packers, who face division rival Minnesota on Sunday needing to keep pace with the Bears.

Sackfest: Led by Julius Peppers, the Bears racked up a season-high six sacks Thursday night against a depleted Dolphins offensive line competing with a backup quarterback in third-stringer Tyler Thigpen.

Peppers finished with three sacks, and Israel Idonije, Brian Urlacher and Henry Melton registered one sack apiece.

Playing with an injured shoulder, Miami left tackle Jake Long surprisingly held his own for a half against Peppers, who seemed poised to have a breakout performance against the Dolphins. Peppers registered his first sack since Oct. 3. Peppers dropped Thigpen for a 1-yard loss with 1:25 left in the first half, in addition to batting down a pass. Two of Peppers’ sacks came in the first half, and he tacked on another sack in the fourth quarter.

Miami’s offensive line, meanwhile, was further banged up in the first quarter when backup center Cory Procter -- subbing for starter Joe Berger -- left the game with a knee injury. The Dolphins slid over guard Richie Incognito to fill in for Procter.

About time: Running back Matt Forte rushed for 97 yards. He has reached the century mark just twice all season.

Melton contributing: Considered almost an afterthought in the club’s plans on defense heading into the season, Melton seems to be making meaningful contributions in the defensive line rotation. He registered his second sack in two outings Thursday night.

Melton, a second-year player, has had at least two tackles in four of his past five games, and has been on the active roster every week. As a rookie last year, Melton was placed on the injured reserve before the regular season even started.

Law of threes: The Dolphins had their third center (Incognito) hiking the ball to the No. 3 quarterback (Thigpen). The Bears, meanwhile, seemed able to score solely in increments of three, taking a 9-0 lead in the third quarter on three field goals from Robbie Gould.

Taking it further, three different players -- Melton, Peppers, and Idonije -- were responsible for the Bears’ first three sacks, which also occurred within the first three quarters. The club didn’t post another sack until the fourth quarter.

What’s next: A week from Sunday the Bears will host a potent Philadelphia Eagles squad that stomped the Washington Redskins on "Monday Night Football" behind a phenomenal effort by quarterback Michael Vick. Chicago’s defense has been consistent all season, but it faces by far its biggest test in containing the red-hot quarterback.