NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans got off to a perfect start against the stingy Chicago Bears when Matt Hasselbeck found Kenny Britt for a 23-yard catch on their first play.
Then Britt lost the ball, the beginning of their lost afternoon.
The Titans fumbled and bungled their way to their worst loss this season Sunday, blown out 51-20 by Chicago on a day where they committed five turnovers, had a punt blocked for a touchdown and were called for a slew of penalties where they struggled to even line up correctly at times.
“When you self-destruct like we did in the first quarter, it’s hard to overcome all that,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said.
Coaches preached the need to take care of the ball all week long against a defense that came in with 23 turnovers and tied for the league lead with 16 interceptions. The Titans were even warned about Bears cornerback Charles Tillman — that didn’t help, apparently, as he forced four fumbles, including Britt’s bobble.
“We talked about it,” Hasselbeck said. “Every time I’ve played the Bears, we talk about it. They are very good at it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them do such an amazing job of getting the ball out. Partly credit them. Right now for us, we are blaming ourselves.”
The Titans (3-6) lost their second straight game by allowing Chicago to post its highest point total since 1980. This time, a defense that came in 31st in the league giving up 32.1 points per game was pounded for its worst showing since a 59-0 loss to New England on Oct. 18, 2009.
The Bears (7-1) won their sixth straight by scoring a franchise-record 28 points in the first quarter. They took control by creating three turnovers in the first 13 minutes, resulting in 14 points.
“It has to be upsetting when you know our reputation coming in,” Chicago coach Lovie Smith said. “It’s not like it’s the first one we’ve done. Every team we’ve played has the mindset that this team will strip the ball. That’s who we are.”
Brian Urlacher became the latest Bears defender to score on an interception return. They have done it a club record seven times — no other NFL team had returned six for TDs through the first seven games of any season.
The Bears had already topped the 50-point mark with 10 minutes still left. They posted their highest-scoring game since matching a team record in a 61-7 win over Green Bay on Dec. 7, 1980. Chicago fans took over LP Field, booing any video highlights featuring the rival Packers and frequently chanting “Let’s go, Bears.”
“It was weird,” Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. “I had to hush the crowd down in the red zone, and they got quiet really quick. We have the best fans in the world.”
Tennessee’s lone highlight when Chris Johnson scored on an 80-yard run in the fourth quarter. Johnson finished with 141 yards on 16 carries against the NFL’s best rushing defense, a big chunk coming when he broke out and went up the right sideline with 10:09 left in the fourth quarter.
Tillman, the NFC defensive player for October, also forced two fumbles by Johnson and later stripped tight end Jared Cook.
“He just finds a way of getting his hands on the ball, knocking the ball out and always being around the ball,” Johnson said.
Cutler tossed TDs of 13, 39 and 5 yards to Brandon Marshall and finished with 229 yards passing. Cutler, who starred in Nashville in college at Vanderbilt, spent the final 10 minutes watching Jason Campbell mop up.
The Bears got on the board first with special teams.
Sherrick McManis ran untouched around the right edge and blocked Brett Kern’s punt, and Corey Wootton grabbed the ball and stumbled 5 yards into the end zone for a touchdown with 6:44 left in the first quarter. The Titans came back with a safety when Bears left tackle J’Marcus Webb grabbed at defensive end Kamerion Wimbley’s face in the end zone.
Otherwise, the Bears dominated. Urlacher picked off Hasselbeck and stepped over the quarterback who tried to tackle the linebacker on his way to the end zone two plays after Matt Forte’s TD run. Tillman forced another fumble on Tennessee’s next offensive play, and Chris Conte recovered.
Cutler capped the first-quarter scoring with his first TD pass to Marshall and a 28-2 lead with 93 seconds still left.
The Bears outgained the Titans 358-333 despite holding the ball for 37 minutes and also settled for three field goals by Robbie Gould, the longest 39 yards.
The Titans sacked Cutler three times and forced one fumble. That set up a 39-yard field goal by Rob Bironas to pull within 31-5 after three failed attempts throwing into the end zone — two nearly picked off by the Bears. NOTES: The Bears now have won four of the past five in this series. … The Bears topped the 24 points they scored in the first quarter Oct. 29, 2006, against San Francisco. … Johnson tied Jim Brown for the second-most 110-yard rushing games in a player’s first five seasons with 28. He now has five career TDs of 80 yards or longer, most in NFL history.