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Our notes, details, and other information from the Bears' 34-18 win over the Cowboys.
- Let's start at the top with Jay Cutler's performance, since I guess it's been sort of a big topic the past two weeks. Everything he wasn't against Green Bay and St. Louis, he absolutely was against Dallas. There were a couple questionable throws, but largely, he hit his windows, gave his receivers plays, and didn't take too many unnecessary risks. And fortunately, he didn't have to take too many unnecessary risks, and the Bears still mixed in a few really nice deep calls.
- But the real story of the game is the Bears' defense - or, as the media will probably spin it, the way that Dallas lost the game. Of the five interceptions that Tony Romo threw up, only the latter three are fully his fault. On the first one (Charles Tillman's touchdown INT), Dez Bryant failed to read a hot read, and instead of coming back to the ball, he stayed on his deep route. On the second, Tim Jennings was right there with Kevin Ogletree, and the ball bounced up and Major Wright took the tip drill. Jennings contributed a nice block to keep Lance Briggs free on his touchdown, on which he got the interception when Henry Melton got his arms on Romo and Romo just tried to get rid of it as soon as possible. The last two were pressing interceptions, when they had no choice but to take big risks down the field.
- The defensive line overall was pretty damn good. Corey Wootton had some nice penetration when he was in, and Amobi Okoye got in solidly when he was able to get into the game.
- J'Marcus Webb wasn't horrible against DeMarcus Ware, although he did have a lot of help with chipping and in-line tight end blocking. Even on Ware's strip-sack, Webb did his job and forced Ware around the outside. He had to take a long route to Cutler, and Cutler did him a huge favor not getting the ball out - although to be fair, Cutler had nowhere to go with it at all. Webb still had a few plays where he was just completely overmatched, but he was largely tolerable. Gabe Carimi was a little unsteady this game, but picked it up.
- The Bears only got one sack of Romo, on Henry Melton's pass rush borne of Julius Peppers' crashing Doug Free's house like it was made of cheap aluminum foil, but that isn't to say they weren't effective - throughout the game, they had more pressure than the Marianas Trench. Two things really helped the Cowboys here - Romo's uncanny pocket presence and the Cowboys' no-huddle. Seriously, he's pretty good navigating the pocket, getting free and making a play, and the Cowboys needed an answer for the massive rotation the Bears were getting in the front four - and the no-huddle stopped that and forced the Bears to play a consistent set of linemen. Harder to rush when you can't go all out every play like they have been.
- Shea McClellin's spin move is a damn good one, and a complete mismatch against Free. Unfortunately, it was too good - Free just let him spin himself silly to the inside, and Romo stepped into the vacated side and got right into the Bears' red zone at the end of the first half.
- Jason Witten brought the Cowboys a much better outing than he has had this year. He must be recovering a bit more from his lacerated spleen. The Bears didn't really have much of an answer for him - 13 receptions on 14 targets, 112 yards, effective all around.
- Dez Bryant must be maddening for Cowboys fans. Kev tweeted it and I agree completely, that was probably the worst 100-yard-receiving game we've ever seen. He made some big plays for first downs, but he also dropped several key third down receptions and had a bad illegal shift penalty that his team simply couldn't have trying to come back down the field.
- Devin Hester is a receiver. He's not a top-flight receiver. He's not a go up and get it receiver. He's not a possession receiver. What he is, though, is a go out and get it receiver. He doesn't have the fight-for-the-ball of a Carolina Steve Smith, but he's got the speed and route running to get separation deep, and he will go get the thing. And that's what he did against Dallas - double move, and just sprint your way to the ball.
- Up and down day for DJ Moore - he got burned on the Cowboys' end-of-half touchdown, and Kelvin Hayden came into the nickel for some series. He came back in and got burned by Miles Austin on fourth down for a first down - bad matchup there. But then after the Bryant illegal shift penalty, he picks off Romo intended for Bryant. Go figure.
- Kellen Davis has the ire of many here, myself included, and he didn't do any favors early on when his drop helped kill an early drive. But he must have been paying attention to Witten on what a tight end should really play like - he came up pretty big later in the game, with a big catch and the snatch-away-catch on what should have been an interception. (Yes, I just said "should-have-been" interception. Defensive back gets both hands on the thing?) I still have no idea how he did that.
- Okay, Brandon Marshall has some serious run-after-catch skills, but even I could have run his RAC route on the touchdown. Partly because Kellen Davis set a freaking "top-of-the-key" pick for him to take out his would-be defender. Nobody on him at all after that.
- Alshon Jeffery had better be walking around Halas Hall high-school-quarterback-style with a football tucked in his arm all week. You can't let Morris Claiborne just rip the ball out of your hands for himself, even if it was overturned.
- Cowboys Stadium erupted into Bears cheers upon the reversal. Home field advantage what?
- The Bears spent a pretty good chunk of the first quarter/half in Cover 1 looks to account for the carries of DeMarco Murray, and for a while the Cowboys were rolling against it. On one sequence, with 8 in the box, the Cowboys passed to Bryant for a first down. The next play, the Bears backed off, and the Cowboys picked up four yards on a Murray run.
- The Bears spent a lot of time running screens early in the game, and a bit of that time not going anywhere. They went to Hester who ran out of bounds at the line of scrimmage, again to Hester on third and long on the bubble screen (?), and before that, Forte for a loss when Sean Lee split Roberto Garza and Chilo Rachal like they were field goal uprights. Granted, a lot of that helped set up some of the downfield throws.
- Forte's ankle was bothering him for the first quarter, but he came back pretty strong on a couple nice plays, including a classic Forte one-cut and go run that saw him head to midfield for 14 yards. Even with his ankle, he still took 13 carries for 52 yards. Michael Bush is a nice back, but he's not the big play threat Forte is.
- Jon Gruden is Hawk Harrelson on a national football broadcast level. Begone from my TV.
- The playcalling was much better this time - the Bears ran quite a bit more on first down, leading to the rare phenomenon of second and short and third and short. And with those, the Bears had the whole playbook open to them all game.
- So is it just me, or do the Bears have to have a lead before the passing game starts to get things going later on? Just feels that way.
- Hey, nice to see the Bears' art of burning first quarter timeouts hasn't gone out of style.
- Also nice to see the Bears have taken to getting some of their bigger targets some action on the slant routes. Cool, now the Bears can use what other teams have been killing them with forever.
- The playcalling overall was pretty balanced - 26 pass calls, 28 rushes, and pretty effective overall.
- On penalties, the Cowboys had two accepted penalties for 10 yards. Lovie turned down a 2nd and 2 or 3 at the 26/27 for 1st and 10 at the 34 for... very little reason at all, apparently.
- The Cowboys picked up 26 first downs. 24 of those came through the air. And one of the rushing first downs came on the first play of the game. The second didn't come until the latter half of the third quarter.
- Kyle Orton scored a touchdown in garbage time. He has an ESPN QBR of 99.4 and a QB rating of 137.1. Jay Cutler finished with an ESPN QBR of 81.1 and a QB rating of 140.1. Da Bears clearly never shoulda gotten rid of dis Orkman guy.
- This game was extremely reminiscent of last year's second Detroit game, so much so that I wanted to see tweets about how the wind made it hard to play. The Bears had 70 less yards of total offense, Forte and Bush had 81 yards combined on the ground, time of possession was in the Bears' favor by 1:40 (0:50 away from even), and the Bears still won by 16. And as of right now, tied for first in the NFC North with the Vikings. Awesome.
That's some of what I noticed in yesterday's game. What did you notice?