The main questions coming into this game were 1) Could the Bears offense continue to make plays when it had to and 2) Could the defense generate enough of a pass rush to disrupt Ben Roethlisberger?
The answers to both questions would be a resounding "Yes."
Let's take a quick look to see how both sides of the ball contributed in a 40-23 victory over the Steelers.
Chicago jumped out to a 17-0 lead behind the play of the offense in the first half, but the unit was out of sync for most of the second half.
However, as they had done in the previous two outings, the offense scored a clutch touchdown late in the game after the deficit had been trimmed to four points.
Here is how the clutch score in question unfolded.
Facing a key third down in the fourth quarter, Jay Cutler ran for 12 yards, giving the Bears a much-needed first down.
A few plays later, Cutler connected with Brandon Marshall for 41 yards, helping the road team convert another key third down.
Per Michael C. Wright of ESPN Chicago, Brandon Marshall—who had caught just four passes for 11 yards prior to this reception—had this to say about the play, "Really, it’s all Jay... Jay threw a 50-yard back-shoulder [throw]. I’ve never seen that happen before. The guy’s arm is amazing. Jay put it in the right place."
Three plays later, Cutler completed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Earl Bennett that provided the Bears with a 34-23 lead and, most importantly, some much needed breathing room.
Cutler's numbers were not overly impressive as he completed 20 of his 30 passing attempts for 159 yards and one touchdown.
However, for the third consecutive week, he marched his team down the field on a drive that resulted in a touchdown with the outcome of the game still in doubt, and he did not throw an interception.
Prior to this game, I was concerned about the play on defensive side of the ball, mainly the front four because the pass rush had been non-existent—this unit had recorded just one sack through the first two weeks of the season.
That trend would change against Pittsburgh, though, and in a big way.
Although Ben Roethlisberger threw for 406 yards and two touchdowns, the defense forced five turnovers (including two interceptions), which led to a total of 23 points.
In fact, it was the defense that provided the final score of the contest as Julius Peppers returned a Roethlisberger fumble 42 yards for a score, helping the Bears hold off the Steelers.
In addition to that, the Bears defense featured an aggressive pass rush for most of the evening, which resulted in three sacks.
According to Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Cornerback Charles Tillman offered this assessment of the team's play on defense, ‘‘Anytime you can score twice on defense, you’re having a pretty good day.’’
After being a bit maligned through the first two weeks, the defense definitely played an important role in the outcome of this game.
The good news is the Bears improved to 3-0 on the season despite not playing particularly well at various stretches in all of the team's victories.
Similar to the Steelers, the Lions have pass-rushers capable of disrupting their opponents' passing game, and Cutler will be forced to deliver some of his throws on the run.
However, if Cutler continues to get the ball out of his hands quickly and keep the turnovers to a minimum, the offense has what it takes to notch a second road win in another hostile environment.
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