Undefeated Bears open eyes with big win in Big D
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP)
The Chicago Bears made their statement. Now, all they have to do is back it up.
They're 2-0 for the first time since the 2006 Super Bowl season after an impressive 27-20 victory at Dallas on Sunday, with a Monday night matchup against Green Bay coming up.
Win that and the doubters just might be silenced. For now, they're at least a little quieter.
Safety Chris Harris said the Bears ''showed a lot of character'' by winning at Dallas. They also showed the ability to make big plays on offense and defense and to beat a contender after barely getting by Detroit in a season-opening win that in some ways felt more like a loss.
This time, the coaching staff was getting credit for the moves it made after being second-guessed for decisions that backfired. And the Bears were basking in the glow of a rather convincing win after they escaped last week, when a quirky rule wiped out what looked like a go-ahead touchdown for Detroit's Calvin Johnson.
''Nobody's picking us to win,'' Harris said Monday. ''We like that. That's fine with us. In the locker room, we're all we have anyway, so we don't let outside forces, outside voices dictate how we play.''
How they played against Dallas was pretty good.
The Bears' average gain per passing play was nine yards, with Jay Cutler completing 21 of 29 for 277 yards and three touchdowns. He's averaging a league-leading 10.1 yards per completion, ranks third in yards passing (649), is tied for fourth in completion percentage (68.8) and has five touchdowns with just one interception after throwing an NFL-worst 26 last season.
There were big hits by the defense, particularly from Harris and linebacker Lance Briggs, the sort that could send a message to the rest of the NFC.
''When guys come across the middle, we just want to make sure that they know they're going to get hit,'' Harris said. ''That's kind of the mentality that we want to have. That's one thing (defensive coordinator) Rod Marinelli is kind of bringing back here - that whole Monsters of the Midway thing. We're buying into it, and we just want to send a message.''
About the only downer for the Bears was losing starting left tackle Chris Williams and rookie safety Major Wright to hamstring injuries. Coach Lovie Smith said they were being evaluated and offered no further details.
When Williams went down, the Bears briefly went with Kevin Shaffer. Then, they made a switch and put him on the right side, with Frank Omiyale taking Williams' spot, and the line started to give Cutler more protection than it has since he arrived from Denver last year.
''Kevin Shaffer is our role tackle, can go in at either position,'' Smith said. ''At first, we didn't know how long Chris would be out of the game. Once we saw that he had a significant hamstring, one that would keep you out the rest of the game, then you start trying to see what you have to put the guys in the best position. And that's why we made the decision to put (Omiyale) over at the left tackle position. He's athletic enough. You need a good athlete there, to protect the quarterback's blind side. So we put Frank there. Kevin Shaffer stepped in, gave us good, solid play.''
Another adjustment: The Bears started going with short, quick passes to counter the Cowboys' blitz, and that paid off in a big way, particularly on Olsen's 39-yard touchdown.
They mixed in screens. They juggled formations, using extra blockers on deep passes. They took advantage of mismatches.
''We have the utmost confidence in Martz and coach Tice because they know the game, they know what they're trying to get down done,'' Omiyale said, referring to offensive coordinator Mike Martz and line coach Mike Tice. ''Tice talks all the time about (how) we're going to get it done one way or another.''