The Chicago Bears improved to 3-0 after taking care of a desperate and winless Pittsburgh Steelers team on Sept. 22 The 40-23 win was their first win on the road this season.
Coming into Sept. 22’s game, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was just 1-5 on Sunday Night Football as he was winless in three road attempts on NBC’s night football program.
Cutler was sure clutch once again for his pesky Bears. He generated an impressive nine play, 74-yard touchdown drive on their first drive of the fourth quarter.
Up 27-23, Cutler scrambled for a 13-yard gain that ended in a vicious collision with Steelers cornerback Robert Golden. The following third-down Cutler delivered one of the best throws of his Bears career if not the best when he hit Brandon Marshall on a back shoulder throw for a 41-yard gain.
Two plays later he found Earl Bennett on a 17-yard touchdown grab in the back of the left side of the endzone just over the reach of Steelers cornerback Shamarko Thomas. The play was initially called incomplete, but after a challenge and review it proved Bennett had possession and both feet down in-bounds.
One thing is for sure Cutler is making the players around him better with his clutch play so far this season. He finally has the weapons around him to succeed. He certainly proved some doubters out there that he is a physical player and he will do what it takes to make sure his team wins.
“I had to get the first down,” Cutler said on his weekly radio show Monday on WMVP-AM 1000. “You saw some of the spots out there. You never know. Especially, when you start sliding they usually (mark the ball) from where you start. So I just had to make sure.”
The Bears got off to a fast start leading 17-0 after the first quarter and holding a 24-10 edge at the half. But the lack of pressure on defense helped Big Ben and the Steelers attack the Bears’ pass defense in the third quarter.
Luckily, the Bears’ defense is so consistent at creating turnovers once again this season. They forced five turnovers on Sunday night, including two fumbles and two interceptions of Ben Roethlisberger. The Bears’ offense did their job not turning the ball over once.
Cutler finished the night completing 20 of 30 passes for 159 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked two times, which was a low amount considering the amount of pressure the Steelers were getting in the second half.
Matt Forte stepped up adding a touchdown run and a big 55-yard run near the end of the first quarter.
Brandon Marshall was quiet on the night until his big 41-yard reception in the fourth quarter, but the Bears didn’t need him to have a monster game with Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and Earl Bennett all making plays.
The defense took down Roethlisberger three times. Two sacks were made by middle linebacker D.J. Williams who also forced a fumble and another sack was made by Lance Briggs. Williams finally appeared to be up to speed after looking out of sync the first two weeks of the season.
The Bears linebacking core has been impressive so far this season. It definitely isn’t great to see the defensive line generate zero sacks, but the pressure was there a plenty on the night from them. Julius Peppers made plays including a 42-yard fumble return late in the fourth quarter to put the Bears ahead for good.
It was great to see him step up as he was another player who was very quiet to start the season. Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin both looked solid off the edge and were active all night.
Obviously the biggest worry for this Bears’ defense moving forward is the defensive tackle position. With Henry Melton (torn left ACL) officially out for the season, Nate Collins, Stephen Paea and rookie Zach Minter will be asked to hold down the middle of the line. Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton will also see time at defensive tackle when needed.
Its a tough loss considering how great of a three-technique defensive tackle Melton is. He will be a free-agent after the season and you have to believe the Bears will do everything in their power to bring him back once he proves his health.
The line has to move on. There is still plenty of football left and this defense is still very talented. Everyone has to step up to fill Melton’s shoes.
The secondary was a bit shaky specifically at the safety position. Major Wright and Chris Conte each reeled in interceptions on Sunday night, but they were constantly out of position especially against wide receiver Antonio Brown who burned the Bears for 196 yards and two touchdown receptions.
Charles Tillman was in-and-out of action with a groin injury and Tim Jennings was rather quiet with just two tackles and one pass deflection. Nickelback Isaiah Frey was impressive once again totaling six tackles on the night.
The Bears pass defense has to be more solid moving forward.