Bears dominate Titans in 51-20 romp

James Dent, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NASHVILLE - Chicago picked apart Tennessee in every phase of the game Sunday, scoring in virtually every way possible and setting records in bunches on the way to a 51-20 victory.
The Bears established a new franchise record for points scored in the first quarter, surging to a 28-2 lead, and breezed to an easy win over the struggling Titans (3-6).
In improving to 7-1 and maintaining a 1 1/2-game lead in the NFC North, the Bears became the first team in NFL history to score on a blocked punt, touchdown run, interception return and touchdown pass in the same quarter.
"Give them credit for making those plays," Tennessee coach Mike Munchak said, "But we made it real easy for them. I thought we had our best practice Thursday and were ready, but we just make too many mistakes."
The onslaught started when Sherrick McManis raced around the right side of a bad protection scheme to smother Brett Kern's punt. Corey Wootton picked up the bouncing ball at the 5 and rumbled into the end zone at the 6:44 mark.
After the Titans got two points back because left tackle J'Marcus Webb was flagged for hands to the face in the end zone, Chicago scored three touchdowns in a two-minute, seven-second span.
Devin Hester's 44-yard punt return to the Tennessee 8 set up Matt Forte's scoring run on the next play with 3:40 remaining. Two plays into the Titans' next possession, Brian Urlacher picked off Matt Hasselbeck's pass over the middle, eluded the quarterback's tackle attempt and lumbered 46 yards for a 21-2 lead.
"It gets contagious," Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said of the defense's run of scoring touchdowns. "Once you see one guy do it, everyone wants to get into the end zone."
On its first play after Urlacher's score, Tennessee gave it up again. Cornerback Charles Tillman stripped Chris Johnson -- the first of four fumbles Tillman forced -- and Chris Conte recovered at the Titans' 16.
Three plays later, Jay Cutler cashed it in with the first of three scoring strikes to Brandon Marshall, making it 28-2 with 1:33 left in the quarter.
Tennessee said it prepared for Tillman's tendency to force fumbles, but didn't protect the ball well enough against the 10-year veteran from Louisiana-Lafayette.
"I was a little fortunate to knock a couple of those out," Tillman said. "I was in college and one of my assistant coaches told me, 'You could have had a huge game if you tried to punch the ball out.' That was a light bulb moment for me."
It never got closer than 31-12 after the Bears' incredible start and a large crowd of their fans went wild when Cutler zinged a 5-yard touchdown pass to Marshall with 10:20 remaining in the game, pushing Chicago over the half-hundred mark.
Cutler's homecoming of sorts -- he played college football at Vanderbilt, as did teammates Earl Bennett and D.J. Moore -- was a smashing success. Although overshadowed by the Bears' defense, Cutler connected on 19-of-26 attempts for 229 yards and the three scores for a passer rating of 138.1.
Johnson supplied Tennessee and his fantasy owners with a highlight, peeling off an 80-yard scoring run with 10:09 left in the game. He finished with 141 yards on 16 carries.
Otherwise, it was a disastrous day for the Titans (3-6), which allowed their most points in any game at 13-year old LP Field. It was their fifth loss by 21 points or more, prompting a round of questions to Munchak on his job security.
"It definitely starts with me," he said. "If the team underperforms, I'm the first guy you should look at. But that's one of those things that will be decided at the end of the year. If we win these last seven games, then it's a wasted argument."
Meanwhile, Chicago now heads for the toughest part of its schedule. Its next six games are against teams with winning records, including next Sunday's visit from 7-1 Houston.
"No reason we can't keep playing this way," Tillman said. "If we keep working hard every week, as far as I'm concerned, the sky's the limit."
Notes: Urlacher's pick-six was the Bears' seventh of the season, three short of the single-season pro football record set by the 1961 San Diego Chargers of the American Football League. ... Chicago's 10 non-offensive TDs match the total number of TDs Jacksonville's tallied this season ... Titans LG Leroy Harris (knee) was among the inactives and was replaced by veteran Deuce Lutui, seeing his first action of the season.