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updated: 11/4/2012 9:01 PM

Northwestern connection gets ball rolling for Bears

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  • 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 Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn.

      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 Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn.
    Associated Press

 
 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Special teams got the Bears rolling Sunday, and it was the work of two former Northwestern Wildcats that made it possible.

Cornerback Sherrick McManis burst off the edge to block Brett Kern's punt, and defensive end Corey Wootton picked up the bouncing ball.

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Wootton then navigated a cluster of bodies for a 5-yard touchdown, his first score since his junior season at Don Bosco Prep High School in Rutherford N.J.

"That one was an interception return, so I had to run a lot farther," said the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Wootton. "This one was easy. It was good, though."

Special-teams coach Dave Toub challenged his troops to come up with a big play Sunday, and they didn't waste much time, scoring 7:16 into the game.

"We had game-planned against them, and we knew the formation they were coming out in," Wootton said. "Sherrick came flying in off the edge, got in there and got the block, and I was able to go right to the end zone."

Both players were drafted in 2010, Wootton in the fourth round and McManis in the fifth by the Houston Texans.

"All week we've been practicing those same techniques, the same blocks," McManis said. "It arrived in the game, and we executed and made the play.

"That was a little Northwestern duo. It was sweet, but it took the whole team to execute it."

Running elite:

Since they entered the league in 2008, the Tennessee's Chris Johnson and the Bears' Matt Forte are No. 1 and No. 5, respectively, in yards from scrimmage, and both showed why Sunday.

Forte's 8-yard TD run looked more like a rugby scrum as a mass of humanity slowly surged to the goal line and then across it.

"That was help from the offensive line," Forte said. "They made a great block and the hole was right there and I hit the safety. I got to the 2-yard line and everybody else came in, but the offensive line came and knocked me in the end zone."

Going in, Johnson had an NFL-best 6,240 rushing yards and 1,554 receiving yards for a total of 7,794.

He added 141 rushing yards on 16 carries, although his 80-yard TD came in garbage time with the outcome long since decided. His 4 receptions netted just 4 yards, and he fumbled twice.

Forte had rushed for 4,669 yards and caught passes for 2,119 yards (third in the league) for a total of 6,788. He added 103 yards on the ground on just 12 attempts and caught 2 passes for 45 yards, including a 47-yard screen.

"Once I caught the ball, the first linebacker got blocked," Forte said. "So everybody else is downfield and you have a lot of open space to make people miss, so that's what happens."

Special day:

Sunday was Brandon Marshall's first 3-touchdown game in the NFL, and he gave a lot of the credit to Jay Cutler, who posted a 138.1 passer rating by completing 19 of 26 passes for 229 yards without an interception.

On the first TD, Cutler bought time in the pocket, stepped up, and threaded a bullet to Marshall, who was covered in the end zone.

"He has a sense out there that a lot of people don't," Marshall said of Cutler. "That's what makes him special, making those type of plays, plays where he just has a great feel for what's going on on the other side of the ball.

"I'm excited to be back with him and be a part of it."

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