|Bears LB Lance Briggs returned an interception for a TD for the second straight week as the defense put up two TDs in a 41-3 rout of host Jacksonville on Sunday. (US Presswire)|
Even Jay Cutler and Mike Tice were seen joking together after after the Bears battered the Jaguars. Who can blame them? With a defense that scores as many touchdowns as the offense, everyone's job is that much easier.
It's hard to believe, but the Bears' 41-3 victory on Sunday in Jacksonville was a 3-3 tie at halftime. Only a sack and forced fumble in the second quarter kept them from trailing. But in a sudden turnaround, the defense ignited the offense for the second straight week with two interception returns for TDs.
At some point the offense will have to stand on its own two feet, but it's not complaining about the help at this point.
They should almost get two grades for this game. The first half Jay Cutler had a 45.8 passer rating and kept missing on back-shoulder routes. The second half Brandon Marshall kept getting open for a 12-catch, 144-yard day, RB Matt Forte kept running to his first 100-yard day (107 yards), and the offense managed to keep pace with the defense's TD-scoring pace over the last three weeks. Cutler ended up with an 88.8 rating, the offense converted 10 of 17 third downs and even with three penalties on RT Gabe Carimi, no one could complain about a 38-point half, the biggest by the Bears since 1941.
Previous game's grade: A
A rare spotty first half on third downs let the Jaguars keep the ball longer than the Bears would have liked, but the Bears defense didn't let it come to third-down conversion percentages in the second half with interceptions and TD returns by LB Lance Briggs and CBCharles Tillman for the second straight week. Chicago Held Jacksonville to 45 second-half yards, and added three sacks and three turnovers forced to its impressive totals for the season.
Previous game's grade: A+
Special teams: B
Devin Hester came close to breaking one 28-yard kick return, but his punt returns went more lateral than vertical. Punter Adam Podlesh had one downed inside the 5-yard line, but the big positives were the coverage teams and kicker Robbie Gould. Jacksonville averaged only 21.7 yards per kick return and had no punt return yardage, while five of Gould's kickoffs were touchbacks.
Previous game's grade: B
Lovie Smith made a gutsy call on fourth-and-one on the first drive of the second half and the conversion led to a field goal. More importantly, he knew how to push some buttons to get a flat group motivated quickly in the second half with his locker room talk. There was no cursing, the players said, just a surly Smith giving them cold stares. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice went away from the back-shoulder pass calls that were being called constantly and the short passing game opened the way for deeper catches later. And miracle of miracles, they knew to take Jay Cutler and Matt Forte out late in the game during a rout to prevent injuries -- something important that always seems to escape their attention.
Previous game's grade: B+
Follow Bears reporter Gene Chamberlain on Twitter @CBSBears.