Big plays led to laugher

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Sometimes, the film from a Bears game could be filed among works of drama.

Other times, the game film is a clear-cut member of the action genre.

As for the Bears’ latest game tape, the proper category is easy to decipher. Pure comedy.

The Bears’ 51-20 win against the Tennessee Titans was a laugher from the beginning. Charles Tillman stripped the ball from wide receiver Kenny Britt on Tennessee’s first play, and replays showed Brian Urlacher laughing on the field after he pounced on the ball.

If you’re a Bears fan, how could you not laugh along with the team? The Bears dominated on defense (again), stepped up on special teams and did enough to get by on offense.

It remains to be seen whether the formula will be enough to beat better teams such as the Houston Texans, who arrive at Soldier Field on Sunday night. But the Bears’ record-setting defense was more than enough to lead the way against a beleaguered group of Titans.

Quarterback: B

Jay Cutler’s 39-yard scoring

pass to Brandon Marshall down the right sideline in the third quarter was a thing of beauty. How many quarterbacks in the NFL (which is to say, in the world) can make that throw? Cutler (56 snaps) had a near-miss interception that was dropped by Titans cornerback Jason McCourty, and he absorbed a big hit along the sidelines when he should have slid or thrown the ball away, but overall he enjoyed a good game.

Running backs: A

Matt Forte notched only 14 touches, but the reason that number was so low was because he covered so much ground with every opportunity. Forte (35 snaps) showed his versatility while posting 148 yards from scrimmage (103 rushing, 45 receiving). He eluded three tackles on a 47-yard screen pass, and he powered past two defenders for a 15-yard rushing gain. On third-and-14 in the first quarter, he spun off of a hit to pick up a first down.

Wide receivers: B

Marshall (56 snaps) caught three passes for touchdowns and caught nine of 10 overall passes. He shifted spots along the line of scrimmage, and his presence in the slot caused matchup problems for the Titans. However, if opponents double- or triple-team Marshall in coming weeks, his teammates will need to do more. Devin Hester (33 snaps) committed a false start, while Earl Bennett (41 snaps) dropped a tough but reachable pass in the first half.

Tight ends: C

This is a position the Bears should upgrade in the offseason,no matter how well the team fares the rest of the way. Kellen Davis (69 snaps) was called for holding on the offense’s first play, and he was invisible in the receiving game with zero targets for the first time this season. Davis and Matt Spaeth (35 snaps) also both whiffed on blocks on the same play, which resulted in a 4-yard loss for Matt Forte in the second quarter.

Offensive line: C

Even when the Bears win by 31 points, the offensive line remains an eyesore. Imagine how good the Bears could be if Mike Tice could whip the linemen into shape. J’Marcus Webb (69 snaps) looked overmatched in the first quarter as he a penalty in the end zone, which resulted in a safety. Gabe Carimi (69 snaps) also had a few slip-ups on the right side. The best moment for the line came on Forte’s 8-yard touchdown run, as all five linemen helped push Forte across the goal line.

Defensive line: A

Strong. Determined. Relentless. Pick your description when it comes to the dominance of the Bears’ defensive line. Stephen Paea (48 snaps) helped to stuff Chris Johnson on back-to-back plays 1 yard shy of the first-down marker to force a punt in the first quarter. Israel Idonije (28 snaps) and Paea teamed up to sack Matt Hasselbeck shortly thereafter. Even Nate Collins (33 snaps) got in on the action by batting down a pass in the first quarter.

Linebackers: A

OK, so Brian Urlacher (49 snaps) required nine seconds to run 46 yards for an interception return for a touchdown. He’s not the athlete he once was, but his football smarts make up for him being a step slower. He read Hasselbeck’s eyes before the throw and shifted left to get in the way of the telegraphed pass. Urlacher also forced a fumble and recovered another, while teammate Lance Briggs (50 snaps) was his typical, reliable self with four tackles.

Cornerbacks: A

Make that an A-plus, or perhaps an A-plus-plus. Charles Tillman is a treat to watch. Enjoy him, because you might never see another cornerback with his rare skill for forcing fumbles. Tillman (50 snaps) stripped the ball four times – four! – including the Titans’ first play from scrimmage, when he raced from behind Kenny Britt and punched the ball with a boxer’s determination. Kelvin Hayden (21 snaps) replaced D.J. Moore (12 snaps) at nickelback and made his coaches look smart by recovering a pair of fumbles.

Safeties: B

Maybe the safeties also deserve an “A,” but they will have to settle for a “B” because they did not cause any of the defense’s five takeaways. Chris Conte (51 snaps) did well in pass coverage against Titans tight end Jared Cook, including a play in which he broke up a pass late in the first quarter to force a punt. Yet Conte also did not arrive to the corner of the end zone in time to break up a touchdown pass from Hasselbeck to Nate Washington. Major Wright (50 snaps) was quiet with two tackles.

Special teams: A

Bears special-teams coach Dave Toub was at it again. Toub called a blitz from the punt coverage team that worked to perfection as Sherrick McManis sprinted in from the right edge and stuffed a punt that teammate Corey Wootton recovered for a touchdown. Devin Hester also showcased his explosiveness that has been lacking for most of the season. Hester would have had a touchdown if not for a missed block by Anthony Walters.

• Tom Musick covers Chicago professional sports for Shaw Media. Write to him at tmusick@shawmedia.com.

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