NFL Nation: Bears-Dolphins 111810

Rapid Reaction: Bears 16, Dolphins 0

November, 18, 2010
11/18/10
11:47
PM ET
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.

Wrap-up: Bears 16, Dolphins 0

November, 18, 2010
11/18/10
11:33
PM ET
A few thoughts about Miami's 16-0 loss to the Bears.

What it means: The Dolphins technically aren't out of the playoff race, but they're almost out of hope.

To get a wild-card berth, the Dolphins must catch either the AFC East runners-up (New York Jets or New England Patriots) or surpass the AFC North runners-up (Baltimore Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers) while also outjockeying the other teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans.

The Dolphins won't win many tiebreakers, having already lost head-to-head versus the Jets, Patriots, Steelers and Ravens.

Rare shutout: The Dolphins had been blanked at home only once in the past 40 years. That was in 2001 against the Jets.

Dolphins quarterback update: Tyler Thigpen didn't get much help. His line was banged up, the Dolphins failed to establish a running game and he had only three days to prepare for the match. Still, Thigpen didn't give Dolfans much hope for the homestretch, completing 17 of 29 passes for 187 yards and an interception.

Miami abandons the run: The Dolphins rushed for a season-low 39 yards, with Thigpen gaining 27 of them. Ronnie Brown ran three times for 10 yards. Ricky Williams ran three times for 1 yard.

Marshall disappoints again: Brandon Marshall, after insisting over the summer he was a changed man, is living up to his reputation as a clown. On one second quarter possession he had two bad drops and was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct along the Bears sideline for throwing the ball at old Denver Broncos teammate Jay Cutler. That's the second straight week Marshall was flagged for chucking the ball after a catch. Marshall permanently left the game in the second quarter with a right hamstring injury.

More injuries: The Dolphins are eroding by the week, but at least they have 10 days to slather on some spackle. Cory Procter, playing center for the injured Joe Berger, went down with a non-contact knee injury in the first quarter. That's bad news. Left guard Richie Incognito was shifted to center and had trouble with shotgun snaps.

Wake a bright spot for Miami: Unless he gets hurt, Dolphins outside linebacker Cameron Wake is headed to the Pro Bowl. He was a force in the first half, recording a strip sack (the Bears recovered) and drawing two holding calls on tackle J'Marcus Webb.

Third-down woes: Miami was awful on third down. Chicago converted 55 percent in the game. On a drive that straddled the first and second quarters, Chicago converted third downs of 9 and 16 yards (a Cutler scramble) before kicking a field goal. Miami's offense converted 9 percent of its third downs.

Henne in uniform: Chad Henne dressed as the third quarterback. That doesn't necessarily indicate anything about his injured knee, but it's a better sign than going to the injured reserve. The thing is, if the Dolphins can't generate any momentum, then there's no motivation to bring him back this year, and they might as well shelve him.

What's next: The Dolphins have extra time to prepare, but they'll have to travel cross-continent to play the Oakland Raiders in Week 12.

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