Though their offense has sputtered for most of the last two
games, the Chicago Bears lead the NFC North and have a chance to
win six in a row for the first time in six seasons.
The Bears look to accomplish that feat Sunday when they visit a
Tennessee Titans team trying to rebound from a frustrating overtime
Even with stars Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall, Chicago (6-1)
ranks 26th in total yards (319.6) and 30th in passing (195.6). Its
defense is responsible for 41 of the team’s 185 points.
The Bears scored their only touchdown on the first drive of a
13-7 win over Detroit on Oct. 22. They found the end zone in the
first quarter last Sunday but struggled the next two before
rallying from 12 down in the fourth for a 23-22 victory over lowly
Chicago totaled 506 yards while quarterback Jay Cutler was
sacked 11 times in those contests.
“I don’t think you can hit the panic button offensively,” Cutler
said. “We just need to keep getting better. We have to keep looking
at our mistakes, keep improving.”
Cutler ranks 23rd with a 78.9 passer rating, but his
fourth-quarter rating of 132.0 is the best in the NFL. He had 80
passing yards heading into the final period against the Panthers
before he went 12 of 14 for 106 yards and a TD.
His fourth-quarter performance helped the Bears to their third
five-game winning streak in as many seasons. Chicago last won six
straight when it started 7-0 in 2006.
“It is about execution most of the time, but we’re not going to
change what we believe in or anything like that,” coach Lovie
Smith said. “We are going to do it better. We’re not going to
apologize for being 6-1.”
Despite Chicago’s offensive shortcomings, Marshall has 675 yards
on 50 receptions – 13 more catches than any Bears receiver had all
of last season.
The Bears might have a good chance for some consistent offensive
success against the Titans (3-5), who rank 30th in total defense
(421.2 yards per game) and 31st in scoring defense (32.1 ppg).
Chicago is giving up 14.3 points per contest, and Tim Jennings’
interception return against the Panthers accounted for the team’s
NFL-leading sixth defensive TD.
The Bears hold a 1 1/2-game division lead over Green Bay and
Minnesota, but would like to take advantage of an inconsistent
Tennessee team before a second half that features six opponents
with records of .500 or better.
Chicago will try to win three straight on the road for the first
time since a five-game run Oct. 10-Dec. 20, 2010. The Bears are 2-0
at Tennessee since the Titans’ franchise moved from Houston.
Tennessee fell to 2-2 at home after blowing a seven-point fourth
quarter lead in a 19-13 overtime loss to Indianapolis last Sunday.
The Titans ran 59 offensive plays compared to 76 for the Colts, who
used a 14-play, 80-yard drive to force overtime and marched another
80 on nine plays for the win.
It was a frustrating result for a club that looked to win three
straight and reach .500 for the first time in 2012.
“You’re 3-5, that’s not good enough,” coach Mike Munchak said.
“Frustration, it means work your way through it, and let’s find a
way to turn this around and get to 5-5. Find a way to become a
better player and a better team.”
Munchak also has to deal with some internal squabbling.
Receiver Kenny Britt wants the Titans to throw downfield more
even though they rank near the top of the league with 30 attempts
of more than 20 yards. Meanwhile, tight end Jared Cook reportedly
wants to be traded despite being tied for second on the team with
28 catches for 373 yards and two TDs.
At least running back Chris Johnson appears to have regained his
Pro Bowl form. The 2009 offensive player of the year has rushed for
385 yards and two TDs on 58 carries in the last three games after
gaining 210 on 73 rushes without a score in the first five.
Matt Hasselbeck has completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 931
yards with four TDs and two INTs while going 2-2 as a starter in
place of the injured Jake Locker.
Hasselbeck has posted a 96.2 passer rating while throwing for
837 yards with six touchdowns and no picks to win two of his last
three versus Chicago.