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Bears force 5 turnovers in routing Titans 51-20

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Bears force 5 turnovers in routing Titans 51-20

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Chicago Bears are proving to be exceptionally dangerous on defense, not that coach Lovie Smith is ready to dub this the best unit he's ever coached.

Not yet anyway.

Charles Tillman forced four fumbles, and Brian Urlacher became the latest defender to return an interception for a touchdown as the Chicago Bears scored their most points since 1980 in blowing out the Tennessee Titans 51-20 Sunday.

Smith said it's a little early to decide just how good these Bears are.

``We like where we are right now,'' Smith said. ``I know this defense is doing some things that no other defense has done that I've been a part of. You know scoring touchdowns, the amount of takeaways we've been able to get. That is special what we have going at the halfway point.''

The Bears (7-1) reached the midpoint having won six straight, and Tillman, the NFC defensive player for October, made sure they avoided a sluggish start by stripping the ball from Titans receiver Kenny Britt on Tennessee's first offensive play. Tillman followed that up by knocking the ball away from Chris Johnson twice and finally from tight end Jared Cook.

``I have never seen anything like it,'' Urlacher said. ``Every week it seems like we are talking about one of those two corners doing something like that. A defensive lineman I can understand getting sacks, but as a corner to get four like that, it's unbelievable.''

The Bears topped the 50-point mark with 10 minutes left when Jay Cutler and Marshall connected on their third TD pass, and Chicago posted its highest-scoring game since matching a team record in a 61-7 win over Green Bay on Dec. 7, 1980. The Bears kicked it off with a franchise-record 28 points in the first quarter keyed by creating three turnovers in the first 13 minutes, resulting in 14 points.

Urlacher became the latest Bears defender to score on an interception return. They have done it a club record seven times - no other NFL team had returned six for TDs through the first seven games of any season.

``We have been waiting for Brian to really step up like that,'' Smith said. ``Outstanding job by him. Touchdown, caused fumble, recovered fumble. The defense was a frenzy out there, really taking the ball away.''

The Titans (3-6) wound up allowing their most points since being routed 59-0 on Oct. 18, 2009, by New England, and it easily was a low point for a team that came in allowing 32.1 points per game.

``I don't think there is any way to explain it other than the fact we did our best to give that game away in the first quarter,'' Titans coach Mike Munchak said.

Making it worse was that coaches had warned the Titans all week about protecting the ball from the Bears.

``I don't think I've ever seen them do such an amazing job of getting the ball out,'' Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. ``Partly credit them. Right now for us, we are blaming ourselves.''

Tennessee's lone highlight when Chris Johnson scored on an 80-yard run in the fourth quarter. Johnson finished with 141 yards against the NFL's best rushing defense, with a big chunk coming when he broke out and went up the right sideline with 10:09 left in the fourth quarter. It was his fifth TD of 80 yards or longer, padding his NFL mark in that category.

Turnovers are becoming contagious for the Bears, and the quick start helped the offense ease through another slow start. Chicago wound up outgaining Tennessee 358-333 despite holding the ball for 37 minutes. Cutler finished with 229 yards passing despite watching the final 10 minutes.

Corey Wootton returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. Matt Forte also ran for a touchdown in the first quarter and finished with 103 yards rushing on 12 carries. Robbie Gould kicked three field goals with a long of 39.

Chicago fans took over LP Field, booing any video highlights featuring the rival Packers and frequently chanting ``Let's go, Bears.''

``It was weird,'' Cutler said of all the Bears fans. ``I had to hush the crowd down in the red zone, and they got quiet really quick. We have the best fans in the world.''

That prompted an apology from Titans receiver Nate Washington to the Tennessee fans who stuck it out to the end.

``We've just got to do better,'' Washington said.

NOTES: Cutler finished with a 138.1 passer rating, and his teams now are 26-0 including playoffs when he posts a rating of 100 or better. ... Cutler was sacked 11 times in the previous two games, and Tennessee finished with three sacks. ... The Bears topped the 24 points they scored in the first quarter Oct. 29, 2006, against San Francisco. ... The Titans now have allowed at least 30 points in seven of nine games this season. ... Johnson tied Jim Brown for the second-most 110-yard rushing games in a player's first five seasons with 28.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

Want the Stanley Cup? Five ways the Caps can beat the Golden Knights

The Caps stand just four wins away from winning their first Stanley Cup. To get those four wins, however, they will have to beat the Vegas Golden Knights.

Here are the keys to the series that will give the Caps the win.

Figure out how to beat Marc-Andre Fleury

No player has been as important to his team this postseason as Fleury is to the Golden Knights. He is reason No. 1, 2 and 3 why they have made their improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s inaugural season.

Fleury’s personal numbers are staggering. Through 15 games, he has a .947 save percentage and has recorded four shutouts.

Vegas has been a middle of the pack team in terms of offense this postseason scoring 2.87 goals per game. They have lost only three playoff games thus far, but, as dominant as they have been, they certainly are not blowing away the competition. Of their 12 wins, ten of them have come with a margin of victory of two goals or less.

This shows you just how important Fleury is to their success. They are not scoring opponents into submission, rather they are relying on Fleury to keep opponents at bay.

Fleury is the absolute key to the Golden Knights’ success. It’s easier said than done, but if the Caps find a way to beat him consistently, Vegas becomes exponentially more beatable.

Win the neutral zone battle

Much of this series will be determined between the blue lines. The Golden Knights are an incredibly fast team.

Just to get to this point, the Caps had to beat two other speedy teams in the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. They did it primarily by slowing down the offense in the neutral zone with a 1-3-1 trap. With so many bodies defending in the neutral zone, opponents have struggled to break the puck cleanly into the Caps’ defensive zone. The Caps are cutting off passing and skating lanes, creating turnovers and generating odd-man breaks in the other direction by catching opponents’ defensemen playing too aggressively on the rush.

As fast as the Penguins and Lightning were, however, the Golden Knights are even faster. Will the trap be as effective against Vegas?

Limit obstruction penalties

When playing against a team with speed, penalties often become a major issue. When trying to defend against fast players, if you get caught flat-footed or out of position, this tends to lead to obstruction penalties like tripping and hooking. When a player realizes he’s been beat, he does everything he can to prevent that from costing his team, leading to those type of penalties.

Vegas’ power play has not been lights out by any means with a success rate of only 17.6-percent this postseason, but you cannot continually give the opposition chances to score by frequently having a player sent to the penalty box.

Positioning is going to make all the difference in the world in this series to make sure a player is not forced into taking an obstruction penalty just to slow down the Golden Knights.

Get off to good starts

Vegas is 10-1 in the postseason when scoring first. Their secret to success is a mix between goaltending and speed.

Fleury has been phenomenal in net and the Golden Knights are a quick breakout team. It is very hard to get much sustained offensive pressure against them because once they get the puck, they are going down the ice at a million miles an hour.

Having to play from behind against a team like Vegas is not a recipe for success. Just getting the puck and keeping up with them is exhausting. Having to then find a way to then beat Fleury when he has a lead to protect is all the more daunting.

Strong starts will be vital to ensuring the Caps are not frequently having to play from behind.

Depth scoring

Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant likes to roll his four lines. It makes sense since there drop-off between his top line and fourth line is not as dramatic as it is on most NHL teams.

Consider how this team was constructed. The expansion draft did not give Vegas access to superstar players, but they also did not have to take any fringe NHL/healthy scratch players to fill the fourth line either. They filled their roster with the best players available to them which gives them four lines of much more comparative strength than most NHL teams.

While this means the Caps have a stronger top six, it also allows Vegas to roll four lines and take advantage of other teams’ bottom six.

You can never take a shift off against Vegas. There is no weak line to exploit. The Golden Knights come at you with four lines and relentless pressure and forecheck for 60 minutes.

Washington will probably get more production from its top six than Vegas will, or at the very least it will be a push. The question is what kind of production will each team get from the bottom six? If the Caps have the edge in depth production as well, they will be in good shape.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.