On a sloppy, swampy, sloshy Soldier Field the Texans grinded and out hit the Bears and silenced their doubters by winning what might be a preview of that little known game in Febuary. Houston found a way to win in a hostile environment and the Bears' will look back on the game pondering about what coulda, shoulda, woulda happened if a few breaks went their way. The game was a defensive battle from the start as the Bears forced a three and out on Houston's first possession and Danieal Manning's brain rattling, fumble forcing hit on Kellen Davis on the following possession, set the tone for the rest of the game.
The Texans offense as inept as it seemed at times, was able to do what the Bears could not, that being crossing the plane of the end zone. Arian Foster was masterful last night gaining 102 yards on 29 carries and 5 catches for 15 yards, including an angelic diving catch that would be the game's only touchdown. Foster was not as effective as the stats may indicate by gaining only 3.5 yards per carry, but the Bears defensive line was consistently in the back field and it seemed that most of his carries came after first contact. His touch down catch was instrumental to the win because it gave Houston a lead that it never lost for the rest of the game. That touch down allowed Houston to stay committed to the running game instead of having to keep trudging along with their woeful passing game. Duane Brown was the man on the offensive line. Houston ran 8 times for 65 yards behind him. Their ineptitude stemmed the lack of yards gained on first down which put them in the hole on third down. On the 23 first down plays the Texans had, they averaged only 2.91 yards per play and they ran the ball on 15 of those plays compared to only 8 passing. These 2nd and long, and third and long situations stalled the offense severely. Houston averaged 9.69 yards to have to pick up on third down to get the first. They only picked up three of the thirteen first downs on third down as a result. The Bears are second in the NFL on third down by giving up a first only 31.6% of the time (Houston is number one with 25.2%). These long downs are extremely scary against a Bears defense that is able to rush the passer and force turnovers. As a result, Houston played it safe on third down instead of feeding the Bears turnover machine. Despite the offenses failures they were able to take advantage of the defenses turnovers and do just enough to get the win.
Being down 10-3 entering the second half the Bears had to run Jason Campbell out to try and even the score. Cutler had a vintage stink bomb going before he left the game after getting caught under the chin from an illegal Tim Dobbins hit. Cutler went 5 for 9 for 36 yards and one interception before his demising hit that caused a concussion. The worst of his throws was a throw to Kellen Davis (notice a trend yet) in double coverage that Manning picked off which wasted some great field position after a Tim Jennings interception. Cutler forced it because of the pressure brought on by Antonio Smith hailing from the Shaolin Temple. Post Dobbins' hit, Cutler was 2 for 5 for 4 yards and one pass complete to the wrong team. His second interception was the result of Kareem Jackson peeling off his coverage to undercut a pass to Brandon Marshall. What Cutler did well was use his legs to gain yards. When no one was open and the pocket collapsing Cutler was able to run for 37 yards on three carries. The Bears O-line was able to keep a clean sheet and not give up a sack, but there looked to be many occasions where they had gotten away with holding. Cutler was largely ineffective for the entire game and whether he played or not in the second half it probably would not have made much a difference against the suffocating Texans D.
Today the Bears' players and fans should be wondering and thinking about all the "what ifs" from last night that swung the game. The Bears had a couple of plays that would have shifted the momentum in their favor. What if Tim Jennings did not get knocked down by his own player and touched down by James Casey? This play was infuriating because he was called down by contact and Jennings ran toward the end zone while Houston was heading to the sideline. After the mass confusion Lovie Smith challenged the play only to see the ruling on the field stand. If Jennings did not get knocked over he could have very well scored on that play which would have changed the outcome entirely. What if Michael Bush did not fumble on the 4th and one run? Up to that point the Bears' had 26 total yards and were looking to answer the a Houston field goal. If he did not fumble, Chicago would have had the ball at the Houston 32 and probably would have gotten at least 3 on that drive and the pressure would have been put on the offense's shoulders to answer back. What if Brandon Marshall did not drop a touchdown pass in the second quarter? The Bears would have taken a 7-3 lead instead of settling for a Gould 51 yard field goal. If the pass was completed the Texans might have thrown the ball more to try and make up the lead instead of sticking with the running game. Momentum was going to be on the Bears side and the running game might have opened up more as a result of having to focus on Marshall more often. This would have led to more opportunities for Earl Bennet and the other secondary recievers. Regardless, of the what ifs, the Texans Defense made the big plays necessary to turn the tides on the Sunday night slugfest.
The NFL is a league full of parity and every game can come down to a few plays. Since the talent level is so high most wins come down to the little things. These little things are tough gritty plays like diving head first for a first down with a defender barreling toward you, a wide reciever getting up field making a block that springs a touchdown, or a defensive lineman not giving up on a play by screaming after a ball carrier, and making a touchdown saving tackle. This weeks gritty play of the game goes to Garret Graham. Houston was up 10-6 on Chicago's 35 with 5:35 left when Matt Schuab hit Graham for a short pass to the middle on a 3rd and 19. He turned to run up field only to see Urlacher raging toward him. Garret lowered his shoulder, trucked Urlacher over and was able to gain extra yards that led to a much more manageable field goal. His catch and run led to a 42 yard field goal that put Houston up by a touchdown. Just 5 minuets before Graham dropped a first down pass that hit him right in the hands that should have been caught. He had the resolve and character to not let his mistakes get to him and ended up making a game changing play. These little plays usually go unnoticed, but they do have a huge outcome on the game. Instead, of maybe having to punt or kick a 50+ yard field goal Houston was able to capitalize.
Every week I watch the Texans I come away in awe. Whether they beat up on a bad team by 3 touchdowns or do just enough to win like last night, they always manage to impress the league. After being scrutinized when they lost to the Packers, they were ready for their chance at redemption. They came out from the get go and got a huge win, in awful weather against a Super Bowl contender. Houston beat the Bears in every aspect of the game and proved who really has the best defense in the NFL. If the Mayans were right and the world really does end up being sucked into the vacuums of space, one of the biggest travesties will be not being able to see them healthy in the post season, vying for a Super Bowl. Damn it feels good to be a Texan.