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 me to watch the game over and to talk a few more people. Hence, “The 24 Hours Later” blog.
Today we break down Chicago’s come-from-behind 28-20 win at San Francisco on Sunday night.
What I saw
Let’s be honest, for the first 29 minutes of the first half, this game was excruciating. There were tons of penalties, the game had no flow and the Bears were down 17-0. Then, Jay Cutler took a shot from Quinton Dial to the sternum. As Cutler was on the awful turf trying to catch his breath, Chicago’s offense found rhythm. Cutler and the Bears took advantage of the lack of discipline by the 49ers (16 penalties for 118 yards, six first downs off penalties) and made them pay. Brandon Marshall made a what-is-now-becoming-routine circus catch for a touchdown, and all of sudden things didn’t look so bad.
Cutler’s numbers after getting hit are amazing. He threw only one incompletion after that. He went 15-of-16 for 138 yards and four touchdowns and a passer rating of 142.2. Like many of you, I’ve seen every game of Cutler’s career as a Bear. You may disagree, but I thought Sunday night ranks with the playoff victory against Seattle in which he threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more as his finest moment.
While Cutler’s performance was courageous and, in a football sense, heroic, this was a full-team effort to come back from 17 points down.
The Bears defense stiffened as the game went on. There was progress from each level:
— Willie Young started slow but finished strong and was instrumental in keeping the 49ers off the scoreboard late in the game. He finished with two sacks. That gives him three on the season, which is a career-high already.
— Jared Allen had a presence. He had a tackle for a loss and forced a fumble.
— Stephen Paea was a force inside, and the rookie defensive tackle Will Sutton did a great job taking on double teams.
— Shea McClellin didn’t fall for misdirection as easily in this game. He set the edge and came up with a sack of San francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick. I’m not sure if he’s a legit NFL player, but you saw growth from Week 1 to Week 2 ,and that’s all you can ask for right now.
— Lance Briggs looked rugged again, recording six tackles, filling gaps and getting a tackle for loss.
— Chris Conte made an interception that speaks to why the Bears kept him. The problem is that he got hurt again. If you aren’t on the field, you can’t help the team.
— Kyle Fuller was pressed into service after Charles Tillman got hurt and made two great plays. On his first interception, he read the route, made a play on the receiver and was rewarded when the ball bounced his way. Not long after, he got Kaepernick again, who was dead set on testing the rookie, to his and the 49ers’ detriment.
What I heard
“I made the throws I wanted to, and they made plays on the ball.” — Colin Kaepernick
I’m not a fan of Kaepernick. I don’t think his ability as a pocket passer justified the big-money deal he received. I thought if the Bears had a chance to win it would be because they forced him to throw.
Pro Football Focus provided the numbers on this: When the Bears didn’t blitz, Kaepernick threw all three of his interceptions and had a passer rating of 46.2. That means Bears were able to get sustained pressure and blanket coverage.
“We all looked to him this week to see how he would handle the adversity of last week, and he stood tall throughout the week and our players followed.” — Bears coach Marc Trestman on Cutler
Trestman believes that outside of Cutler’s OMG interception against Buffalo in Week 1, he’s done everything right. I’m not willing to go that far, but Cutler was terrific Sunday. He completed 68 percent of his passes and tossed four touchdowns. He’s now tied with Peyton Manning for the most touchdown tosses in the league. Maybe Michael Irvin wasn’t crazy when he said Cutler could win MVP. Still, I’m not willing to go that far either.
“I better pick my pace up because right now he’s starting to run away with things. But if he keeps playing like that we’ll be just fine.” — Jared Allen on Willie Young
In the offseason, Young was the afterthought. Allen and Lamarr Houston were the big signings on the Bears’ revamped defensive line. I talked with some people who cover the Lions, and they thought Young could have a major impact this season for the Bears. Now, he keeps earning playing time. The bonus of that is that if Young is playing well, it allows the Bears to kick Houston inside, where he’s very good. Sunday was the first multi-sack game of Young’s career.
A nod to Peanut Tillman
Ordinarily, I would end with “What I was told” here, but I thought I’d take time to talk about Charles Tillman instead.
Tillman was placed on the season-ending injured reserve Tuesday. I don’t know if his career as a Bear is over, but I do know that if it is, his legacy is cemented. He’s the franchise leader in defensive touchdowns with nine. It’s a record that means something to him because he passed his teammate and mentor Mike Brown on the way. Tillman has 36 interceptions, which ranks him third in team history. And when it comes to forced fumbles, he’s second in the NFL right now with 42. That’s a list in which you usually see defensive linemen and linebackers at the top.
I’ve laid out these numbers of Tillman’s often throughout our time doing shows together. He’s either not impressed, or he’s a good actor. (And he’s not that good of an actor.) What I’ve always liked about him is that he defers to the rest of his teammates and doesn’t seek the spotlight. In the past, he’s romanticized about walking away from the game with his partner in crime over the last decade-plus, Lance Briggs.
Ideally, that’d be with a championship. That seems less likely now. If this team went to the Super Bowl, it would be bittersweet. I’ll never forget the hurt on Brown’s face when he had to watch his teammates from the sidelines as they lost Super Bowl 41.
Because of who he is, Tillman will go about his business like a professional. He’ll continue to mentor Kyle Fuller and anyone else who seeks his counsel. You’ll see him on the sidelines working with defensive backs coach Jon Hoke and offering any assistance that he can.
It’s not often that someone has universal appeal. Tillman does. I defy you to find someone who doesn’t like and respect Peanut. We all know his story, and we feel like we know his family. He is simultaneously a superstar and an everyman. In a league filled with questionable characters, it’s been nice to cover someone who embodies what the league purports to stand for.
Charles would bristle at the idea of being a role model, but isn’t that how all the great ones do it? They lead by how they live.
Laurence Holmes hosts the Laurence Holmes Show on 670 The Score and is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow him on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.