Chicago Bears defensive end Corey Wootton (98) scores a touchdown after he recovered a blocked punt as Tennessee Titans punter Brett Kern, center, and safety Al Afalava (38) try to bring him down in the first quarter of an NFL football game on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Joe Howell)
Updated: January 4, 2013 1:44AM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After the Bears’ defense forced a turnover at the start of the first quarter, the offense went three-and-out Sunday at LP Field.
But the defense and special teams did not despair and proceeded to help make history in the Bears’ 51-20 romp over the Tennessee Titans.
The Bears built a 28-2 lead in the first quarter. It was a franchise record for points in the quarter.
Sherrick McManis blocked a punt, and Corey Wootton returned it five yards for a touchdown to begin the scoring barrage midway through the first quarter. Brian Urlacher added a 46-yard interception return for a touchdown, the defense’s seventh score of the season.
Feeling left out, the Bears’ offense regrouped and reloaded with Brandon Marshall at the forefront.
“Offensively,” Marshall said, “we were just like, ‘Man, now we have to do our part.’ And it felt good to contribute — a little bit.”
The Bears set even more records:
◆ First team to score by ground, air, interception return and blocked punt in a quarter.
◆ First team in NFL history with seven interception-return touchdowns in the first eight games.
◆ First team since the 1961 San Diego Chargers with an interception return for a touchdown in five games during a six-game span.
And while the final statistics for the offense are encouraging — 358 net yards, 160 on the ground, with Marshall scoring three touchdowns and Jay Cutler posting a 138.1 passer rating — the performance was deceiving because the pass protection was still spotty against a suspect defensive line (three sacks and five pressures allowed), and the unit didn’t exactly thrive when the game was still competitive.
That template might not cut it next Sunday at Soldier Field.
The offense’s slow starts and flaws have been masked the last two games against teams that have won a combined five games. But coming up are the 7-1 Houston Texans, arguably the best team in the AFC with a top-10 offense and defense. The Texans beat the Titans 38-14 this season.
The Titans, of course, were stunned. Coach Mike Munchak was asked if his team had quit against the Bears.
“I think it’s hard because of the score,” Munchak said. “For some reason, that is where people want to go right away. No, I wouldn’t say we quit. I just don’t think we played very well.”