'Northwestern duo' sparks special teams TD

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As teammates at Northwestern, Sherrick McManis and Corey Wootton rarely played together on special teams.

Instead, they had to wait until Sunday to connect for their first touchdown.

“That was the first time for the Northwestern duo,” McManis said with a grin after the Bears’ 51-20 win against the Tennessee Titans. “That was sweet, but it took the whole team to execute it, and we got a block.”

Specifically, McManis got the block. He flew in from the right edge to block a kick by Titans punter Brett Kern, and Wootton scooped the loose ball and returned it 5 yards for a touchdown. The play broke a scoreless tie with 6:44 remaining in the first quarter.

The Bears practiced the punt-team pressure in the days leading up to the game because they thought that they could get a block against the Titans, Wootton said. Coaches thought that Wootton or Craig Steltz would be most likely to get the block based on the formation, but their pressure up the middle helped McManis to sprint unnoticed from the right side.

Instead of blocking the punt, Wootton was happy to notch his first touchdown since his junior year of high school.

“I just thought, ‘I’m going to play basketball and go up and get the rebound and get into the end zone,’ ” said Wootton, who stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall. “It was a great feeling to be able to get a touchdown and really set the tone on special teams.”

Aches and pains: Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton missed part of the game because of tightness in his back, but he said afterward that the injury was not serious.

“I got a little dinged up,” Melton said. “I could have kept playing, but they took it precautionary. We were already kind of blowing them out, so there was really no need [to push it].”

Meanwhile, defensive end Israel Idonije missed part of the second quarter after he injured his left knee. Idonije walked gingerly off the field, but he was able to return before halftime.

Empty feeling: As the Bears celebrated on their way to the locker room after the game, the Titans tried to figure out how the game so quickly spiraled out of control.

“The experience was like, ‘What are we doing?’ ” Titans tight end Jared Cook said. “I felt like we were in a dream, kind of like [a], ‘This can’t be happening’ type deal. [We] gave up 28 points in the first half. We should have been ready to play, but obviously we weren’t.”

It was even worse than Cook remembered. The Titans gave up 31 points in the first half.

Bears bits: On his 30th birthday, Devin Hester returned five punts for 69 yards, including a 44-yard return that set up a touchdown by Matt Forte in the first quarter. … Jay Cutler completed 19 of 26 passes to move past Erik Kramer for second place in franchise history in completions. Cutler has 923 completions with the Bears, which trails only Jim Harbaugh (1,023 completions).

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