By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune reporter
10:36 PM EDT, October 7, 2012
1. Bounces don't usually come in bunches for the Bears defense like this unless Mike Brown is involved. But Lovie Smith's defense is making the most of its opportunities with four touchdowns in the last two games (two interception returns for Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman each) and five for the season — two more than they had during the entire 2006 Super Bowl season. To a man, no one in the locker room is surprised. Defensive end Julius Peppers said "when you play the game the right way, good things happen for you." Playing the right way begins with stopping the run. It empowers everything else on defense, and that is what's happening.
2. Jay Cutler was asked two weeks ago if it was possible to target Brandon Marshall too much. He didn't particularly care for what was a fine and reasonable inquiry. The simple answer is no. Cutler targeted Marshall 17 times on Sunday, resulting in 12 receptions for 144 yards. The 12 catches tied for the third most in franchise history in a single game. His catches accounted for six first downs — one on fourth-and-1 for 12 yards on the drive that broke open the 3-3 tie in the third quarter. It's proof that too much is not enough for Marshall. He has 496 yards, 231 shy of Johnny Knox's team high from 2011.
3. Lost in the defense's smothering performance was a robust finish by the offense. The Bears totaled 501 yards as they ran the ball consistently, getting Matt Forte his first 100-yard game in 11 months and totaling 214 on the ground. Cutler and Marshall have given the offense a new dimension, but as the weather turns in coming weeks, you have to imagine offensive coordinator Mike Tice will continue to lean more heavily on the rushing attack. Michael Bush offered a punch, too, and Tice probably wishes he called a run on the third-and-1 play when Cutler was picked off.
4. Prepare for the hype machine to get cranked up. The Texans (4-0) come to Soldier Field on Nov. 11 and the Bears could be 7-1 entering that showdown with the AFC's only remaining unbeaten. The Bears have a favorable schedule before the Week 10 meeting. Their next three opponents (Lions, Panthers, Titans) have one win each and a combined record of 3-11. The schedule in the second half of the season is more formidable, but things are setting up nicely and NBC officials have to be eager to promote the Texans-Bears game as one of the jewels of the prime-time slate.