Bears in complete control in rout
Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall catches a 13-yard touchdown pass as he is defended by Tennessee Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh (24) and safety Michael Griffin (33) in the first quarter Sunday.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A central theme this week was starting fast. But not everyone got the memo.
Defense and special teams obviously were in the loop, producing 2 of the Bears' first 3 touchdowns in a 28-point first quarter.
In their first seven games, the Bears had scored just 30 points in the first quarter.
The offense was a bit late to the party, but it raged late and helped pile it on in a 51-20 blowout victory over the 3-5 Tennessee Titans.
The Bears improved to 7-1 with their sixth straight victory, their longest streak since they opened the 2006 season with 7 straight wins.
"We've been talking about that quite a bit," Smith said of the fast start that included 3 touchdowns in a two-minute, seven-second burst late in the first quarter.
"We need to see that. That's what we're capable of doing."
The offense struggled early, but who noticed?
Not the tens of thousands of Bears fans who made it seem like a home game.
By the end of the game, the visitors clearly outnumbered Titans fans, who couldn't get to the exits quickly enough by the fourth quarter.
And who cares if the offense is a bit sluggish, as long the defense continues to score almost as many points as it allows and special teams steps up with huge contributions.
Charles Tillman forced an unheard-of 4 fumbles, 3 of which the Bears recovered. Twice in the first quarter he punched the ball loose. The first came on the first play of the game to set the tone. The second set up a TD.
"Coach Smith was pretty adamant about us going out there and having a fast start," Tillman said. "We didn't want a repeat of what happened last week against Carolina (a tense 23-22 victory in which the Bears trailed 19-7 midway through the fourth quarter).
Brian Urlacher scored on a 46-yard interception return, the Bears' franchise-record seventh score on a pick this season.
The offense got in on the fun after that, as Jay Cutler (138.1 passer rating) threw 3 TD passes to Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte rushed for 103 yards.
"Everybody we knew we wanted to start fast, and we set the tone on special teams to start it off," said 6-foot-6, 270-pound defensive end Corey Wootton, who recovered a Brett Kern punt blocked by Sherrick McManis and fought through tacklers for a 5-yard TD to open the scoring.
"Then the defense came along and the offense did a great job, capitalizing on the turnovers we were making. We were just running on all cylinders. All three phases were going good."
The defense forced 5 turnovers, and the offense gave it away just once and controlled the ball for 37:01, almost 14 minutes longer than they had last week.
New contributors in all three phases seem to surface each week.
Urlacher became the fifth defensive player to score.
Marshall (9 catches, 122 yards) has been key all season, but he never had 3 TD catches in a game before.
Wootton's TD was his first since high school.
Cutler's passer rating was the fourth highest of his career.
"I've never started off like this," Marshall said, "I've never been a part of a team like this, and I'm just really humble and want to continue to work just to do my part.
"I looked around the locker room before the game started and I just said, 'Man, I just want to do my part so I don't let any of these guys down.' That's what I think about each week, not letting my teammates down."
The stifling, opportunistic defense and two big plays from special teams were more than enough to offset another tepid early offensive performance that produced just 136 total yards in the first half but still resulted in a 31-5 lead.
The offense allowed a first-quarter safety but also scored 2 first-quarter touchdowns, although both came courtesy of exceptional field position provided by the defense and special teams.
A 13-yard TD pass from Cutler to Marshall gave the Bears a 28-2 lead and pretty much wrapped things up with 1:33 left in the first quarter.
That was set up by a Tillman forced fumble, which was recovered by Chris Conte at the Titans' 16.
That came just 86 seconds after Urlacher's fifth career TD, which came just 41 seconds after Forte scored on an 8-yard run.
Forte's third TD of the season came on the first snap after Devin Hester's 44-yard punt return, his longest of the season.
The degree of difficulty increases the next two weeks when the Bears host the 7-1 Houston Texans (7-1) before visiting the San Francisco 49ers (6-2), both in prime time.
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