Going into the Sunday night showdown with the Houston Texans, the Chicago Bears defense was the most talked about unit in the NFL. The acclaim that the Chicago defense has gotten this season is well earned, as they led the league with 28 forced turnovers, including 17 interceptions, going into the game. Their swarming, ball-hawking defense was the reason they also were tops in turnover margin at +16. The Bears defense was not only forcing turnovers at a high rate, they were returning them for scores as well. Of those 17 interceptions, they had returned 7 for touchdowns.
Although they may have been under the radar in this match-up, the Texans defense is no slouch either. They proved it in a big way Sunday night, leading the way in Houston’s 13-6 win that displayed just how good of a unit they are. It was a throwback, old fashioned defensive football game played in the elements of Soldier Field. The wind, rain, and sloppy field had an effect on both teams, and not surprisingly turnovers were in abundance. The Bears defense continued their turnover prowess, as CB Tim Jennings picked Matt Schaub off twice. They were Jennings’ league best seventh and eighth interceptions on the season.
However, the Texans defense was the unit who would force the most turnovers, forcing four Chicago turnovers to improve Houston’s turnover ratio to a not so shabby +10 on the season. The defense set the tone for the night on the Bears first play from scrimmage when Danieal Manning delivered a viscous hit to Bears TE Kellen Davis that jarred the ball loose. Tim Dobbins recovered the fumble and the Bulls on Parade connected the first punch in the Windy City.
Later in the first quarter Manning got into the act once again, combining with fellow safety Glover Quin to force a fumble by Bears RB Michael Bush that Bradie James recovered to stop a Chicago drive deep in Houston territory. After forcing two fumbles, the defense got in on the interception party when Manning (who else), picked off Bears QB Jay Cutler on the Bears last 1st quarter possession. It was a stellar return to the Windy City for Manning, who started his career with and played five seasons with Chicago before coming to Houston last season as a free-agent.
The Texans forced their fourth turnover in the 2nd quarter when Kareem Jackson broke off of his man to intercept a Cutler pass in Texans territory once again. Cutler may have very well tossed more picks in the second half, but his night ended at halftime due to a second quarter hit by Dobbins that left him with a concussion. Cutler became the third quarterback that Houston has knocked out of a game this season. He joined Jake Locker and this week’s opponent, Blaine Gabbert on that list.
It was just another in the line of outstanding performances by the Texans defense under Wade Phillips. They limited the Bears to eight first downs, which tied for the second-fewest in team history. The Bears were 2-of-13 (15 percent) on third down, which marked the fourth time this season the Texans have held an opponent under a 20 percent conversion rate. It was the seventh time in nine games this season that they have held the opponent under 20 points. It was also the second consecutive game that they did not allow a touchdown.
With the win, Houston improved to 8-1 and tied the Atlanta Falcons for the best record in the NFL. They also improved to 4-0 on the road and ran their all-time record to 3-0 against the Bears. They are also 3-0 this season against fellow first place teams, beating the Denver Broncos 31-25 in week 3 and the Baltimore Ravens 43-13 in week 7. The last time they played this week’s opponent, the 1-8 Jacksonville Jaguars, the Texans defense set the franchise record for fewest yards allowed in a game. The way both teams are playing, don’t be surprised if the Bulls on Parade set more records on Sunday.