Monday, October 1, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Bears 34, Cowboys 18
By Kevin Seifert
A few thoughts on Monday night's events at Cowboys Stadium:
What it means: The Chicago Bears improved to 3-1 and now share the NFC North lead with the Minnesota Vikings. This was the kind of all-around dominance the Bears envisioned this offseason. Their defense intercepted Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo five times and accounted for two touchdowns, but their offense held up its end with a sharp and productive performance from quarterback Jay Cutler -- at least on the field.
CutlerWatch I: We'll handle Cutler's night in two separate posts. On the field, Cutler was accurate, aggressive and took few unnecessary risks. He completed 18 of 24 passes for 275 yards for two scores and no interceptions, and his 140.1 passer rating was the third-highest of his career. His impressive throws included a 34-yard touchdown strike to receiver Devin Hester, a 30-yard back-shoulder pass to receiver Brandon Marshall and also finding Marshall wide open against a blitz for a 31-yard clinching score in the fourth quarter. After two weeks of offensive struggles, the Bears couldn't have asked for more Monday night.
CutlerWatch II: A discussion of Cutler's night would not be complete without noting his refusal to acknowledge offensive coordinator Mike Tice during a second half trip to the sideline. As we discussed earlier, Cutler walked away from Tice, sat down on the Bears bench, and then got up and walked away again as soon as Tice sat next to him. We don't have the full context and may never get it, but is sure didn't seem a respectful way to treat a coach who has given Cutler significant schematic latitude this season.
Defense rises: Cornerback Charles Tillman and linebacker Lance Briggs each returned interceptions for touchdowns in what was a dominant display by the Bears defense. Briggs' play was a turning point of sorts, coming shortly after Cutler had fumbled and gave the Bears a 24-7 cushion. The final statistics might not bear it out, and some of you will note that Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant probably left 100 yards worth of catching on the field via drops. But to me, Monday night was a reminder for the nation the Bears defense is still on top of its game. These guys just know how to play this scheme.
HesterWatch: We discussed the possibility Monday afternoon of the Bears using Hester more in this game, and his touchdown reception was his first since Week 6 of last season. Cutler clearly focused on Marshall (seven receptions, 138 yards) but Hester stepped up with fellow receiver Earl Bennett sidelined by a hand injury.
What's next: The Bears will play at the Jacksonville Jaguars next Sunday, the second leg of the dreaded road game after a Monday nighter on the road.