The Bears went on the road on a short week, following an impressive Monday night win over the Dallas Cowboys, and handed the Jacksonville Jaguars their fourth loss on the season. The 41-3 victory was the Bears’ seventh consecutive road win following a Monday Night Football game.
As a result, the Jaguars have now lost their first three home games on the season, the first time in their franchise history. The Bears will now head into their bye week riding a three-game win streak, and without any Jay Cutler drama to ruin it. How about that!
Here’s the reality: while the Bears were supposed to beat the Jaguars, and were supposed to do it handily, they went above and beyond Sunday afternoon, making the right adjustments at the half, pulling the rug out from underneath Blaine Gabbert and company.
The 38 second-half points scored by the Bears against the Jags are the second-most they've ever tallied in a game following halftime. The Bears are currently scoring 30 points per game, and their defense ranks atop the NFL in takeaways and defensive scoring by . . . a lot.
The Bears’ defense is averaging one touchdown per game through five games. I mean, just think about that . . . that’s through nearly a third of the season. The Bears’ five defensive touchdowns on the season (30 points) is the most in the NFL (closest team is Baltimore with two). The Bears’ defense now has 13 picks on the season (closest team is St. Louis with eight).
In terms of Division standings, the Bears currently rank second in the NFC North at 4-1. The Minnesota Vikings, also 4-1, are atop the snow-covered mountain with a better division and conference win percentage. The Packers fell to 2-3 on Sunday, losing to the Colts (who the Bears beat), and the Lions bring up the rear at 1-3, currently on their bye week.
As I sat, trying to decide how to wrap this one up for you, it occurred to me that five games into the season and heading into a bye week is a good time to take a peek at on some “on pace” stats for the 2012 season, especially considering the team’s successes thus far.
So, here’s what some of the key contributors did this afternoon, and also where they project to be at the end of the season:
CB Charles Tillman, who is well on his way to serious Pro Bowl consideration, along with Tim Jennings, mind you, pulled down a second interception return for touchdown in his second-straight game. Tillman now owns the franchise record for defensive touchdowns with eight.
With two TDs this season, Tillman has already reached his career-high. He’s currently on pace for six interceptions this season, which would also be a career-high by one.
LB Lance Briggs also has two defensive touchdowns this season—his career high—and is on pace for 93 total tackles this season, a typical number for Briggs. He’s technically on pace for three sacks this season, which would be a career high for him (don’t put too much into that one, though). He’s also on pace for 16 passes defended (would also be a career high). I smell an eighth consecutive Pro Bowl nod in Briggs’ future, kids.
According to the NFL's Director of NFC Football Communications, Randall Liu, Tillman and Briggs’ interception-returns for touchdown in each of the Bears’ last two consecutive games make them the first set of teammates in NFL history to accomplish that feat.
LB Brian Urlacher, who thankfully hasn’t had to be “the old Urlacher” this season, is currently on pace for just 64 total tackles, which would be the lowest of his career; even lower than the 71 he had in 2004 when he played just nine games. It’s probably safe to say that, currently, it doesn’t look like he’ll be headed to his ninth Pro Bowl this season. Things could change.
CB Tim Jennings has already matched his career-high in passes defended with 10 and has surpassed his interceptions numbers. He is on pace to surpass just about all of his career numbers.
Those aren’t my only notes on the defense, but certainly my highlights. For example, Stephen Paea is looking at, potentially, a great season. Henry Melton is putting together a career year. Major Wright and Chris Conte have also answered the call at the safety position.
QB Jay Cutler, despite getting pulled late in the game, finished 23 of 39 (59%) for 292 yards two TDs and one INT; that’s an 88.8 passer efficiency rating. Cutler is on pace to finish with 3,869 passing yards, which would be his most in a Bears uniform, and 22 TDs, which would be his least in a Bears uniform.
He’s also on pace for 22 INTs, which would be his most since throwing 26 in 2009. Jay Cutler is 9-1 in his last 10 games; the Bears are averaging 31 points per game during that stretch.
WR Alshon Jeffery finished with two catches for 20 yards and one touchdown. Through five games, he's on pace to finish his rookie season with 589 yards and over six TDs. I only see him getting more opportunities as the season progresses, barring injury of course.
Speaking of Jeffery’s hand injury (he left the game after the half), it was reported that he had a cast on his right hand, but there has been no official word from the team.
RB Matt Forte finished with 127 yards from scrimmage (107 rushing, 20 receiving). Through five games, he's on pace to finish with 1,203 yards from scrimmage, which would actually be Forte's lowest career Y/Scm through a season—that’s a good thing, kids.
WR Brandon Marshall finished with 12 catches for 144 yards (12 AVG) and one TD. Through five games, he's on pace to finish with 1,587 yards and 10 TDs this season.
The last time the Bears had 100-yard rusher (Forte) and a 100-yard receiver (Marshall) in the same game was 2006 (Jones and Muhammad at NYG).
WR Devin Hester is currently on pace for 406 yards on the season, which would actually be pretty good considering Jeffery and Marshall’s respective “on pace” figures.
Hester had a real, real nice catch today that displayed his speed and drive. Said this on Twitter, and it’s been my personal observation having covered this team for the last three seasons: Devin Hester wants to be great at everything he does, and he works hard for it. It’s the reason why the Bears have never given up on him as a receiver. He still struggles, but every once in a while he’s going to give you one of the beauties he gave you today. And that’s okay. That’s why Marshall and Jeffery are here.
Bye week time! I’ll pour myself a drink or seven and see you in a couple weeks.