24 Hours Later: Laurence Holmes Breaks Down Bears-Cowboys
By Laurence W. Holmes-
(CBS) Time offers the opportunity for perspective, so I thought it would be a good idea to wait each week to give my thoughts on the Bears game. The idea being that 24 hours allows for me to watch the game over and talk to a few more people. Hence, “The 24 Blog”.
What I Saw:
– Monday night was a dismantling of the Cowboys offense. The Bears defensive line stayed busy getting after Tony Romo. While they only got him on the ground once, the pressure led to five interceptions and a forced fumble. The defense on all levels was fantastic and added another piece of evidence that this could be a championship unit.
– Jay Cutler’s performance was spectacular. He started slow, but got decent protection and a productive-enough run game. Cutler was extremely efficient. He was 18-for-25 with 275 yards and ended up with a 140.1 passer rating for the game. In the third quarter, he posted a perfect 158.3 rating, had great touch on his passes down the field and involved everyone in the passing game.
– Devin Hester did exactly what the Bears coaches hoped in training camp. He blew the top off the defense and made them pay. Hester’s 34-yard touchdown came off a double-move where he froze the corner, got separation and had plenty of space to adjust to the ball in flight. Last week, Hester was frustrated at his chances to make plays in the receiving game. It seemed clear that the Bears game-planned to get him more touches, but it wasn’t overdone. Hester was targeted four times, but he made the most of his chances.
– I think Lance Briggs is playing at an All-Pro level. Following up the awesome game (chronicled here last week) against the Rams, Briggs posted this stat line against the Cowboys: six tackles (1 for loss), a forced fumble, an interception and a 74-yard return for touchdown on that interception. We all know that Brian Urlacher has been hampered by that knee, and Briggs has really stepped up to make those “wow” plays.
What I Heard:
“Nothing like hearing the ‘Let’s go Bears’ chant early & throughout the game.” – Lovie Smith
Bears fans usually travel well, but there’s something about going to Dallas that really brings them out. I was at Texas Stadium in 2010 and fans made their presence known then, too. Estimates were that 30,000 fans were there back then and that was probably the case last night. Back then, Cowboys employees that I talked to were surprised – and a bit troubled – by the invasion. It’s a great stadium Jerry Jones has, but it doesn’t really seem to have a home-field advantage. Since moving in, Dallas is 14-12 after last night.
“The star of our defense is our defense.” – Charles Tillman
As I mentioned earlier, all levels of the Bears defense played a role in the win. Lovie Smith is all about winning the turnover battle. The Bears won battle 5-to-1.
Henry Melton, Stephen Paea and Amobi Okoye collapsed the pocket. Julius Peppers provided pressure, even while getting held. Briggs and Tillman had touchdowns. Chris Conte & Major Wright accounted for 16 tackles, one for loss and two interceptions. The defense got two touchdowns. The five interception Romo threw tied a career high.
The Bears used a couple of different blitz packages, too. The “A-gap” blitz, coupled with a safety blitz, led to a touchdown. After four games, the Bears lead the Aikman ratings in defense and it’s not even close…
“Offensive line played extremely well.” – Jay Cutler
It was bumpy early. DeMarcus Ware got some pressure and even got to Cutler in the third to force a fumble, but overall they were pretty solid. I thought using Matt Spaeth as a “helper” to J’Marcus Webb was valuable. There were plays where Spaeth stood Ware up. Gabe Carimi was spotty, but rallied late. The middle of their line was fantastic and Chilo Rachal has really added something to that mix. Even with a tender ankle, Matt Forte made some plays in the run game.
What I Was Told
“100 percent. They make sure and pump the ball out on time.” – DJ Moore
Moore told me that the credit for the turnovers starts and stops with the defensive line. The pressure they’re getting makes the quarterback throw when he doesn’t want to. The defensive backs know when they can break and drive on the ball. Moore had a great second half of the game, which included most of his 10 tackles and his pick.
Having continuity at safety has made a big difference too, with both Conte & Wright continuing to make plays. Yes, Wright has benefited from some plays that Tim Jennings has made, but the fact that he’s out there is a big deal. They’ve started 10 games together. In those 10 games as a duo, they have eight interceptions. Looks like the Bears have found their tandem.
“I’m almost there. Don’t get caught. I just scored. OK, now celebrate. Do a dance that’s cool and don’t screw up.” – Charles Tillman
I asked Tillman to walk me through what a defensive player is thinking when he has a chance to score.
Tillman would know. He’s the Bears franchise record-holder for interceptions for a touchdown with six and shares the record for total touchdowns by a defender with Mike Brown. Tillman has amassed 560 interception return yards in his career which is second only to Richie Pettibone (643) in Bears history.
Since 1991, Tillman and Brian Dawkins are the ONLY players with at least 30 interceptions and 30 forced fumbles. In his 10 seasons with the Bears “Cacahaute” has been a part of 70 turnovers (30 forced fumbles, 31 interceptions, 9 fumble recoveries).
“YEP” – Lance Briggs
That’s in response to me asking Briggs if he knew he was taking his third quarter interception to the house. Briggs ranks second all-time in Bears history in interceptions for touchdowns, picking up his fourth on Monday night. It was 74 yards, and while Briggs is known for his pursuit speed and chasing down ball carriers, it’s not often that we get a chance to see him use his top-end, straight-line speed, but he did against the Cowboys.Tim Jennings landed a great block to make sure he got home, but Briggs was chuggin’. Lovie Smith even joked about it after the game.
“How about Lance Briggs? You guys didn’t know he could run that fast did you?” Smith said.
I have to admit, I thought Lance had lost a step over his 10 seasons. He showed the wheels Monday night.
For more Bears information, follow Laurence on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.