The Bears Fight Back to Beat the Bengals: 5 Things We Learned
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In what was projected to be one of the closest played games on the Week 1 schedule the Chicago Bears came back from a 21-10 second half deficit to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals 24-21.
Jay Cutler threw a terrible looking interception at the start of the fourth quarter but otherwise played a stellar game against a tough Cincinnati defense with 21 Completions in 33 Attempts, 242 Yards, 2 Touchdowns for a 93.2 Passer Rating.
For the Bengals, Andy Dalton finished with 26 Completions in 33 Attempts for 282 Yards, 2 Touchdowns, 2 Interceptions and a 97.2 Passer Rating.
The final statistic line between the two teams was as close as the performance of the two quarterbacks but here are five things that made the difference in the game.
1. The Bears' ball-hawk cornerbacks began 2013 the way they ended 2012.
The Bears set up their first score when, on the Bengals' first possession, Charles "Peanut" Tillman beat A.J. Green for inside position to pick off Andy Dalton's second pass of the game at the Cincinnati 36 yard line. Seven plays later, Martellus Bennett beat double coverage to make a spectacular grab on a Cutler 8 yard touchdown pass to give the Bears a 7-0 lead.
Tillman's vision and concentration allowed him to pull in his second interception of the game early in the second quarter after a Dalton pass deflected off of Green's hands at the Chicago 38. That play stopped a potential Bengals scoring drive one possession after they tied the game at 7. The interception took place after Green had his pocket picked on the first play of the drive by Tim Jennings, who couldn't recover before the ball deflected out of bounds.
Jennings made up for that early in the fourth quarter when he stripped the ball away from Mohamed Sanu and pulled it in at the Bears' 26. Cutler connected with Brandon Marshall 8 plays later on a 19 yard touchdown strike to put the Bears in front for good 24-21.
Tillman's interceptions gives him 35 for his career. He's third on the Bears all-time list behind Richie Pettibon with 37and Gary Fencik with 38.
2. The Bears' offense looked sloppy early but never looked flustered.
One of the first things Marc Trestman made clear when he was hired as head coach was that there would be no relaying of plays. Cutler would receive the calls directly from Trestman on the sidelines. The benefits of that were immediately apparent.
The Bears broke the huddle and were at the line of scrimmage with approximately 20 seconds left on the play clock all game, a good 10 seconds more than he regularly had with Lovie Smith as head coach. Cutler had time at the line to scan the defense, change assignments or the entire play if necessary and still get the ball snapped in plenty of time. This enabled the offense to run in a steady rhythm all afternoon with play execution smoothing out as the game continued.
Cutler was hurried a handful of times but not sacked once by the Bengals. The Bears rebuilt offensive line also continued the discipline they established in the preseason. Not once in the game were they called for a pre-snap penalty.
3. Andy Dalton to A.J. Green is going to be murder on NFL defenses this season.
The Bears' Pro Bowl cornerbacks, Tillman and Jennings, played hard to keep Green covered and he still managed to catch 9 passes for 162 yards and 2 Touchdowns.
Tillman worked so hard on Green into the second quarter that he had to come out of the game for a drive after throwing up twice on the sideline. Tillman had Green covered and still surrendered a 42 yard play to Green that set up the Bengals' first touchdown and was forced into a pass interference penalty in the third quarter that led to the Bengals' final score.
4. The Bears' defensive line was held under control by the Bengals most of the game.
One of the reasons why Dalton had the time to connect with Green along with his tight end combo of Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert was the lack of push by the Bears' defensive line for most of the game.
Julius Peppers struggled against double team blocking to be held off the final scoresheet with no tackles or assists. Defensive Tackle Stephen Paea played a solid game to hold position and register two tackles and four assists but his partner in the interior of the line, Henry Melton, was a non-factor all afternoon.
The inability of the Bears defense to win at the line of scrimmage allowed the Bengals to put together three long scoring drives, of 97, 91 and 80 yards for their three touchdowns.
Defensive end Shea McClellin keyed the defensive line's final stand on what turned out to be the Bengals' final drive. On first down McClellin broke free to sack Dalton for a 5 yard loss to knock the Bengals back on their heels and stop any chance of momentum.
After the 3-and-out punt the Bears held the ball the final 6:38 for the win.
5. The Bengals lack of discipline contributed to the Bears' comeback.
The Bengals showed all the discipline of a frat house during pledge week and that made the ultimate difference in the game.
With 50 seconds remaining in the second quarter, leading 14-7, the Bengals punted the ball away to the Bears' 41 but gave away 15 yards on a personal foul by Dre Kirkpatrick to set the Bears up with a first down at the Cincinnati 44. They could only manage to gain 4 yards on the drive but it was enough to set up Robbie Gould for a 58 yard field goal. He drilled it to give the Bears the 3 points that made the difference in the final score.
In the third quarter the Bengals wasted all 3 of their second half timeouts, giving them no way to stop the clock on the Bears' final drive. To add insult to injury Rey Maualuga committed a personal foul on that drive to keep the ball in the Bears' hands and allow Cutler to kill the clock with two kneel-downs.
In Week 2, the 1-0 Bears host the Minnesota Vikings, who lost 34-24 to the Detroit Lions. The 0-1 Bengals head home to take on the 0-1 Pittsburgh Steelers, 16-9 losers to the Tennessee Titans, on Monday Night Football.