MORRISSEY: ‘Special’ Bears cut Titans down to size
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 04: Brian Urlacher #54 of the Chicago Bears is congratulated by teammates after scoring a touchdown on an interception against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on November 4, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — By the fourth quarter, the stadium was half-empty, which wouldn’t have been notable had the half-full part been populated by fans of the home team, the Titans.
But these were Bears fans who cheered anything white, blue and orange and booed whenever the video scoreboard showed a highlight of the hated Packers. A carnival is what it was — in the stands and on the field.
Step right up and see another fumble recovery. Watch the world’s strongest men overpower an unworthy opponent. Behold the dancing Bears.
This was as ridiculous as a football game can be at the NFL level, with the Bears destroying the Titans by the Pop Warner score of 51-20.
The things that happened Sunday were just silly. Everybody knows Charles Tillman is a one-man Heimlich maneuver when it comes to forcing fumbles. The Titans know it. The Titans’ mothers know it.
And yet . . .
And yet Tillman forced four of them Sunday. Four. You’d have an easier time getting four Stradivariuses on short notice.
‘‘Right now, he’s the Defensive Player of the Year,’’ linebacker Lance Briggs said. ‘‘Hands down right now, I think there’s no one playing better than him.’’
Brian Urlacher, who doesn’t move the way he used to, returned an interception 46 yards for a touchdown. He also forced and recovered a fumble.
It was like that Sunday. It has been like that for most of the season. Urlacher’s return was the Bears’ seventh defensive touchdown in eight games.
‘‘The big plays — I’ve never been around anything like this, high school, college, any level,’’ he said. ‘‘Every week, it seems like someone else is doing it.’’
Throw in Corey Wootton’s five-yard touchdown return of Sherrick McManis’ blocked punt, and you have a pretty good idea of the chaos the Bears caused. Wootton, a defensive end, said he hadn’t scored since his junior year of high school. As I said, silly stuff.
But the tone was set by Tillman, who used a straight right hand to relieve the Titans’ Kenny Britt of the ball on the first play from scrimmage.
If it’s possible for a team to practice causing fumbles the way the Bears do, doesn’t it follow that it’s possible for a team to practice not fumbling?
If so, is it fair to say the Titans don’t spend a second of their time learning how to protect the ball from defenders with evil intentions?
‘‘[The coaches] were preaching all week about turnovers,’’ Titans tight end Jared Cook said.
At some point, you just have to shrug and say Tillman has an extrasensory ability to cause fumbles. Maybe it’s telekinesis. Maybe he’s a forced-fumble shaman.
‘‘I speak it, I believe it, I practice it, it happens,’’ he said.
The Bears are 7-1, thanks to a defense many of us thought was over the hill. On Sunday, they held a 28-2 lead after one quarter (you read that right), thanks to defense and special teams. Their first two touchdown ‘‘drives’’ were one play for eight yards and three plays for 16. Too often, the Bears had to settle for Robbie Gould congratulating his blockers after short field goals.
But this was their big day under the big top, and so it came to pass that even the Bears’ sluggish offense found life. By the time the game was over, the numbers looked very good. Matt Forte rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown, Jay Cutler had a 138.1 passer rating and Brandon Marshall caught three touchdown passes. Something to build on, even though the first three quarters were God-awful.
The Bears were reminded once again that it’s good to be the king. It’s nice to have a traveling retinue to see to your every emotional need. The attendance at LP Field was 69,143, and the number of Bears fans was in the tens of thousands.
‘‘A lot Chicagoans know and feel the same way we do — that this is a special year,’’ Briggs said. ‘‘People want to see special, so a lot of people came out here to Tennessee to see what they saw.’’
‘‘It’s probably a compliment to our city,’’ Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said of tourist-magnet Nashville.
He would have been correct had Bears fans not flocked to Dallas and Jacksonville, Fla., as well this season. No, Briggs had it right: Bears fans want to see this in person, want to witness a hungry defense in person.
Step right up. You don’t want to miss this show.