Bears pick off Cowboys 34-18, improve to 3-1 - Chicago Tribune
ARLINGTON, Texas A national television audience got a good glimpse at the stout defense and volatile yet improving offense that has defined the first quarter of the Bears season.The defense intercepted Tony Romo five times with Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs returning their picks for touchdowns and quarterback Jay Cutler completely outdueled Romo in a 34-18 rout of the Cowboys on Monday night before a vocal contingent of Bears fans among the 90,080 at Cowboys Stadium.
The Bears moved to 3-1 to remain in a tie with the upstart Vikings atop the NFC North. The return of running back Matt Forte gave the offense a little boost as he carried 13 times for 52 yards, and Cutler fired touchdown passes to Devin Hester and Brandon Marshall.
Cutler's biggest apparent misstep was blowing off offensive coordinator Mike Tice on the sideline in the second quarter, a scene that ESPN captured and that quickly spread over the Internet. Tice had approached Cutler on the bench to talk, and Cutler abruptly took off.
The Bears will do their best to label it a non-story, but it comes two weeks after Cutler bumped J'Marcus Webb in Green Bay and a year after Cutler cussed out Mike Martz in a nationally televised game against the Vikings.
Cutler completed 18 of 24 passes for 275 yards and made big plays downfield with the offensive line doing a solid job controlling outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Marshall caught seven passes for 138 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown against blown coverage in the fourth quarter, and tight end Kellen Davis showed up with three catches for 62 yards.
Romo was downright awful. A mixup between him and wide receiver Dez Bryant set up Tillman for an easy 25-yard return for a touchdown, the franchise-record sixth interception return for a score in his career. That put the Bears ahead 10-0 late in the second quarter before the Cowboys (2-2) responded with an 80-yard drive capped by Romo's 10-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin.
But the Bears marched right downfield to open the third quarter, going ahead 17-7 on Hester's 34-yard touchdown. The defense made up for a Cutler fumble when he held the ball too long as tackle Henry Melton forced Romo to cough the ball up, and Briggs returned an interception 74 yards for a touchdown and a 24-7 lead.
Romo completed 31 of 43 passes for 307 yards. Strong safety Major Wright had two interceptions, one on a ball that went off wide receiver Kevin Ogletree. In the fourth quarter, with the Bears holding on to a 17-point lead, nickel cornerback D.J. Moore picked off Romo, making up for some earlier missed tackles. The defense also throttled Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, limiting him to 24 yards on 11 carries.
The victory represents the first for the Bears against a team that wasn't a doormat last season. It's hard to say what home victories over the Colts and Rams represented. But this was a road victory against a team many expect to compete in the NFC. Maybe it didn't set the tone when the Bears won here in Week 2 of 2010, but it was an early confidence builder. This game could provide the same benefit, as the defense is playing with a swagger.
The Bears broke a scoreless tie on Robbie Gould's 43-yard field goal with 4:15 remaining in the second quarter. There was a puzzling sequence as Cutler connected with Marshall for a 12-yard pass on first-and-15 from the Cowboys 39. Cornerback Brandon Carr was called for illegal contact on the play. Rather than decline the penalty and have second-and-3 from the 27, Lovie Smith opted to take the penalty for first-and-10 at the 34.
What should not be lost in the victory was a solid effort for the scrutinized offensive line. Tice will find plenty that needs to be cleaned up, but there isn't a coach in the league who doesn't react that way. Cutler was sacked only twice, once when he held the ball too long and once on a bootleg that didn't materialize. The Cowboys entered leading the NFL in total defense, and the Bears sustained drives and opened holes. The defensive effort from the Bears was expected. The line's play, at least for a week, was revealing. email@example.com Twitter @BradBiggs