By Tom Pollin
CHFF's Music City Marauder (@tjpollin)
The colors navy blue and orange were well represented as the Chicago Bears’ and their fans took over LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee and rocked it all afternoon.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter with the Bears comfortably ahead 37-12 a chant of “Let’s Go Bears” began rising throughout the stadium, growing in intensity by the second which transformed into a roar when Jay Cutler floated a 39-yard touchdown pass into the outstretched arms of Brandon Marshall to extend their lead to 44-12
The 51 points by the Bears in their victory over the Titans were the most they’ve scored in a game in 32 years.
On December 7, 1980, led by three rushing touchdowns by Walter Payton, they beat the Green Bay Packers 61-7.
The 2012 Bears have also put themselves on a pace to smash the franchise record for points in a season of 456 set by the 1985 Super Bowl XX champions. After eight games the Bears are averaging 29.5 points per game, putting them on a pace to finish the season with 472 points.
The Bears are also now tied for No. 3 all-time with 7 INT’s for Touchdowns after Brian Urlacher picked off a Matt Hasselbeck first quarter pass to extend the lead to 21-2.
The record for most in a season is 9 set by the 1961 San Diego Chargers in the second year of the American Football League. At their current pace the Bears will finish 2012 with 14 INT’s for Touchdowns.
The Bears advanced their record to 7-1 to keep pace with the victorious Packers, now 6-3, and all alone in second place and the Detroit Lions, now 4-4 after beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-14.
With the NFC North holding an NFL best 22-12 won-loss record, here are five things we learned about the division after Week 9.
1. It was takeaway day for the Bears’ defense in Tennessee.
The tone for the game was set on the Titans’ first offensive play when Matt Hasselbeck’s 23-yard completion to Kenny Britt became 1st and 10 for the Bears after a well-placed punch by Charles “Peanut” Tillman knocked the ball out of Britt’s hands.
The four forced fumbles by the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for October gives him seven for the season and puts him three away from tying the single season record.
On offense, after a rough start Jay Cutler threw three touchdown passes to Brandon Marshall while recording the fourth best Offensive Passer Rating of his career at 138.1.
Matt Forte also distinguished himself by making use of blocking that allowed him to show off his open field elusiveness. Forte only rushed 12 times but gained 103-yards. He also showed some power running when he found himself in the middle of a “rugby scrum” of linemen that forced its way into the end zone for the Bears second touchdown.
Another landmark for the Bears’ on Sunday: they became the first team in NFL history to score via a touchdown pass, rushing touchdown, INT for touchdown and blocked punt touchdown in the same quarter when they took a 28-2 lead over the Titans in the first 15 minutes.
That production made the Bears the 14th team in NFL history to score at least 28 points in the first quarter of a game. All the Bears had to do from there was name their final score. They settled on 51-20.
2. The Packers squeeze by for the second straight week.
The Packers played the courteous host last Sunday when they let the Jacksonville Jaguars hang around the entire game before winning 24-15. This week they almost let the Arizona Cardinals back into the game in the third quarter before finishing them off 31-17.
The Packers are heading into their bye week with a four game winning streak and all alone in second place in the division with a 6-3 record, two games behind the Bears for the division lead.
Aaron Rodgers had a rough game, only completing 47 percent of his passes for just over 200 yards but produced when it counted, throwing for 4 TDs.
The Packers also showed a running game their fans might be able to get excited about. As a team they rushed for 176-yards and a 4.5 YPA for their best ground game effort this season. Alex Green broke through with 53-yards gained and 4.8 yards-per-carry average while James Starks rushed for 61 yards.
The Packers desperately need their bye week after adding Clay Matthews, Jordy Nelson and Bryan Bulaga to their overloaded injury list. When they return to action they’ll be playing only their second divisional game of the year, against the Detroit Lions on the road.
3. The Detroit Lions found a run game too on Sunday.
Granted they were playing the Jaguars, No. 29 in the Defensive Hog Index, but the Lions still rushed for four touchdowns on Sunday. The last time they accomplished that was back in the “leather helmet” days by Dutch Clark…well, not really but it must feel that way to Lions fans. The last time the Lions rushed for four touchdowns in a game was on October 9, 2005 against the Baltimore Ravens.
Mikel Leshoure rushed for three of those touchdowns in the second quarter to give the Lions what was essentially an insurmountable lead of 21-0. Joique Bell completed the emergence of the running attack with a 10-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to give the Lions a 31-8 lead.
Overall, all elements of the Lions’ offense took the opportunity afforded by playing the Jaguars to get their games back on track. Matthew Stafford threw for 285 yards, an 8.6 Real Passing Yards per Attempt average and a 93.6 Passer Rating.
Calvin Johnson was targeted eight times in the game and caught seven for 129 yards. Rookie Ryan Broyles took advantage of his playing time to catch all six of his targets for 52 yards.
The Lions still have problems on defense; they only sacked Jaguars’ quarterback Blaine Gabbert one time for five yards and only registered two other hits on him.
There is also the mysterious disappearance of Ndamukong Suh from the stat sheet for Sunday’s game. No tackles, either solo or shared, no sacks, no rushes and if the Lions can’t get production equal to his status as a first round pick, there may be no more victories, or at least not enough victories to put them in the playoffs this season.
4. The Vikings are in need of a bye week.
Unfortunately for them, they don’t get one until after they face the Detroit Lions at home after next weekend. They started strong on Sunday but deteriorated as the game went on before losing to the Seattle Seahawks 30-20.
An alternate heading to this section could have been, is the Christian Ponder No. 1 quarterback experiment over? For the second time in three weeks Ponder failed to crack 100-yards passing. He finished with 63 passing yards and a 37.3 Offensive Passer Rating.
After the month of September when he led the Vikings to a 3-1 record, including a signature win over the San Francisco 49ers, Ponder's game has regressed to the point where it has to be a question of if he can rebuild the confidence that he displayed while being practically unshakable early in the year.
The one bright spot for the Vikings is the continued elite play of running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson rushed 17 times for 172 yards and a 10.7 YPA with two touchdowns.
Next Sunday becomes the moment of truth for the Vikings. They host the Lions and need a win to keep their hold on third place in the division. A loss finishes their descent, dropping them into fourth place.
5. Week Nine NFC North Division game balls.
Charles "Peanut" Tillman, Bears - The NFC Defensive Player of the Month for October started his campaign to repeat in November by using the ball punch that he's perfected to force four fumbles and lead the way for a Bears' victory. Even when he's not using that punch to force a fumble, it's effective by giving an opponent something additional to think about during a play. Tillman, teamed with Tim Jennings, the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September, arguably gives the Bears the best cornerback tandem in the NFL.
Mikel Leshoure, Lions - The Lions' second round pick is slowly emerging as a much needed go-to running back. His three touchdowns in the second quarter against Jacksonville gave the Lions complete control of the game by halftime. Leshoure ran for 70-yards and a 4.4 YPA.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings - What did the "Bionic Back" do this week? He was the Minnesota Vikings offense. Peterson gained 182-yards with a 10.7-yards per carry average against a Seahawks team that only allowed 3.71-yards per carry on defense going into the game.
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