Bears

Friendly rivals? Not Ditka-Gregg, but no less intense

Friendly rivals? Not Ditka-Gregg, but no less intense

Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011
Posted: 11:03 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

It is difficult to have a hate-filled rivalry when the two central figures in the building drama get along. Quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers are in touch with each other away from Fields Soldier and Lambeau.

Yeah, I texted him after the divisional game in Atlanta and said good game, Cutler said. Well have a friendly little banter.

All of the banter wont be totally friendly when the Bears host their greatest rival next Sunday at Soldier Field at 2 p.m.

Yet where once the rivalry was marked by dirty football, with gridiron thugs like Charles Martin body-slamming Jim McMahon or Ken Stills late-hitting Matt Suhey (and some Bears perpetrating mayhem on the occasional Packer), and coarse exchanges between a Mike Ditka and Forrest Gregg, now the antipathy is tinged with respect.

We dont like them, said center Olin Kreutz. Theres a tremendous amount of respect for each other. But it usually works out that the guy you respect the most is the guy you hate the most.

For safety Danieal Manning, Its a love-hate thing. All the players know each other, the coaches know each other, the owners know each other.

We respect them because they are so good. And thats part of why we dont like them.

When the Bears lost to the Packers back on Jan. 2 in Green Bay, they missed a chance to eliminate the Packers from the playoffs. As they left the field that night, the Bears had a sense that they would see the Packers again.

We did, Kreutz said. We knew that if we won and they play like theyre capable of playing, we might see them again.

Finally, the NFCs two best

The Bears win over the Seattle Seahawks and the Packers road wins over Philadelphia and Atlanta have brought together what can only be called the two best teams in the NFC, critics notwithstanding.

The Packers may have stumbled at times this season (perhaps not surprising with their franchise quarterback suffering two concussions and one-fourth of a roster winding up on IR).

So have the Bears, losing those three of the first seven.

The Bears offensive line and the Packers running game have a lot in common: weaknesses that supposedly would undo each.

Neither did. And the NFC juggernauts in Atlanta, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia werent better than these two.

There was a lot of good teams, said defensive end Julius Peppers. We earned this. Both of us earned this opportunity to be right where we are.

Well said.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information

Return of the Monsters of the Midway: Bears defense has huge day in win over Panthers

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USA TODAY

Return of the Monsters of the Midway: Bears defense has huge day in win over Panthers

Are the Monsters of the Midway back?

You wouldn’t be wrong for feeling that way after watching yet another strong performance from the Bears’ defense in Sunday’s 17-3 win over the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field.

Highlighted by Eddie Jackson’s pair of 75-yard turnover-return touchdowns, the Bears’ defense had a second straight highlight-reel display on Sunday. In addition to Jackson’s takeaways, the defense also added a fourth-quarter interception for a third takeaway, sacked Cam Newton five times and kept the Panthers completely out of the end zone.

For those keeping score at home: That’s two full games without allowing an offensive touchdown.

And they did it all while constantly being on the field. Thanks to Jackson’s touchdowns, the Bears’ offense got to stay on the sideline more than usual, the Bears’ offense possessing the ball for fewer than 7 minutes in the first half and only 21 minutes and 25 seconds on the game overall. And when the offense did take the field, the results were poor, meaning a quick turnaround for the defense.

The overworked defense didn’t always keep the Panthers from marching down the field, but the Panthers never found the end zone, Newton’s inaccuracies assisting the terrific play of the Bears’ defense, which technically forced four turnovers, if you count a third-quarter turnover on downs.

And that’s all before mentioning that the defense supplied almost the entirety of the Bears’ scoring output for the day on Jackson’s first-quarter fumble-return touchdown and his second-quarter interception-return touchdown. Both went 75 yards as Jackson, playing a year to the day from the end of his collegiate career with a broken leg at Alabama, became the first defensive player ever to have two 75-yard-plus return touchdowns in an NFL game.

If you’re having flashbacks to the last decade, when Lovie Smith’s defenses had a habit of being bigger scoring threats than the offense, you’re not alone. Twitter lit up with Mike Brown comparisons for Jackson.

Great day for the rookie, great day for the defense.

No offense to be found

Meanwhile, the Bears’ offense did next to nothing on a day when the defense was excellent.

Mitch Trubisky was mostly silent in his third career game, the obvious exception being his 70-yard heave to Tarik Cohen. Trubisky’s deep ball landed in his fellow rookie’s hands, and Cohen did the rest scampering all the way down to the 5-yard line.

Of course, the Bears’ offense failed there, unable to cover five yards in three plays for a touchdown. Trubisky attempted to rush in on third down, racing to the pylon and diving for the score. It was initially ruled a touchdown, but a replay review determined he was down short of the goal line. The Bears settled for a field goal on that drive, and it was the only scoring drive the offense engineered all day.

In the end, the numbers were disgusting. The Bears accumulated just 153 yards, picked up just five first downs, went 2-for-11 on third downs and scored just three points. Trubisky barely even threw the ball, completing just four of his seven passes for 107 yards.

Good thing the defense was so good — and scored 14 points — because the offense was practically non-existent.

Eddie Jackson, you are ridiculous! Wild facts about rookie safety's NFL-first touchdown combo

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USA TODAY

Eddie Jackson, you are ridiculous! Wild facts about rookie safety's NFL-first touchdown combo

When you do something that’s never been done before in an NFL game, you’ve done something pretty special.

Eddie Jackson had himself a jaw-dropping day Sunday, returning not one but two Carolina Panthers turnovers 75 yards for touchdowns in the first half of the Bears’ Week 7 contest, the first time ever a defensive player had multiple return touchdowns of 75 yards or more.

The Panthers had little trouble moving the ball downfield on their first possession of the game, but quarterback Cam Newton’s option pitch was fumbled, allowing Jackson to pick it up and dash down the sideline 75 yards for a score.

Then in the second quarter, the Panthers got inside the Bears’35-yard line, only for a Newton pass to be batted up in the air by Prince Amukamara and land in Jackson’s hands. The rookie safety again ran back 75 yards for a Bears touchdown.

And how about this: Jackson's huge performance came a year to the day that his collegiate career ended with a broken leg at Alabama.

Some more wild facts from Jackson’s remarkable first half:

Incredible. And that was just in the first half.