The Miami Dolphins offense led by third string quarterback Tyler Thigpen was no match for Julius Peppers and the Chicago Bears top ranked defense Thursday night. Thigpen was sacked six times, threw one pick and pretty much looked awful all game. To make matters worse for him, his top threat, WR Brandon Marshall, left the game after injuring his leg in the first half and didn’t return. That pretty much sealed the Dolphins fate, who failed to score a point all night and only mustered 187 yards of total offense.
There were two things in the game that stood out, which allowed the Bears to dominate the Dolphins on Thursday night – third down conversions and time of possession. While the Bears offense was only able to score one touchdown on a 2-yard Matt Forte run in the third quarter, they were able to keep the Dolphins defense on the field, retaining possession of the ball for almost 38 minutes. Cutler was able to pick apart the Dolphins with screen passes and short slants all over the field and finished the day converting on 10 of 18 third downs. One the flip side, the Dolphins were only able to convert 1 of 10 third downs.
The Dolphins, who came into the game with a lot of injuries, lost second string center Corey Proctor early in the game and guard Richie Incognito was forced to be the snapper. His bad snaps and inexperience blocking from the middle of the line contributed to the passing woes of Thigpen, who threw for just 187 yards (54 of which were on their final drive in garbage time) and 1 interception. However, those numbers don’t do justice to how bad the offense really looked. The Bears took advantage of a Dolphin offense that looked lost, allowing just 39 rushing yards, 27 of which were on Thigpen scrambles. Also, Julius Peppers finally showed up on the stat sheet, recording 3 sacks.
The Bears offense didn’t put up huge numbers but continued showing improvement. Jay Cutler made a few errant throws down field, but for the most part he hit his receivers when he needed to. On third down, he was 7-9 for 73 yards and did a great job managing the game. Matt Forte also had a big day, gaining 97 yards on 25 carries and scored a touchdown. Mike Martz committed to the run, calling on Forte and Chester Taylor 36 times as opposed to 32 pass plays.
All-in-all, Cutler didn’t lose the game and the offensive line looked better than it has all year. Bears rookie tackle JaMarcus Webb had a lot of trouble with LB Cameron Wake, who’s a beast by the way, committing four penalties and allowing a sack. Other than that, Cutler had time to throw the ball and did his best Kyle Orton circa 2008 impression by throwing short passes to open receivers.
Here are some more key points from the game:
- “Mr. Reliable” Robbie Gould was back to his old form, making field goals of 46 yards, 24 yards and 50 yards to get the Bears on the board early. I’ll tell ya what, he’s got the leg to kick a 60 yarder if the conditions are good.
- Charles Tillman’s 3rd interception of the season was the 25th takeaway of the year by the Bears defense, which leads the league. You know what they say, defense wins championships.
- Julius Peppers had 3 sacks and tipped a pass that lead to Tillman’s interception; Julius Peppers, you were ridiculous!
- What happened to the Dolphins Wildcat offense that everyone talked so much about?
- DE Henry Melton recorded his first career sack. It’s good to have competent backups on defense. If only we had a few more competent offensive linemen.
- In case you missed them mentioning it 700 times, the Bears recorded their 700th franchise victory. Now that that is out of the way, let’s focus on Super Bowl victory #2.
- Danieal Manning’s hit on Davone Bess was sick. Check it out.
- Lance Briggs (7 tackles, 1 PD) and Brian Urlacher (5 tackles, 1 sack) both deserve to go to the Pro Bowl this year. They were all over the field Thursday night and have been really good all year.
- Tommie Harris had a nice tackle for a loss. Looks like his new role is to make one big play a game. Hell, it’s better than the 0 big plays we were getting before.
- All I have to say about Devin Hester is….so close.
- It was nice to see safety Major Wright back on the field. Looks like he still isn’t 100% but he will make an impact during the last half of the season, mark my words.
- Greg Olsen looked good yet again (4 catches, 40 yards, 3 first downs), and he’s quietly having a very productive season. One question though, why doesn’t anyone call him “G-Reg” anymore? I’m bringing it back. G-REG!
- Hey Brandon Marshall, what goes around comes around.
Well, there ya go. The Bears shut out the Dolphins 16-0 to stay atop the NFC North. I’m sure there are still plenty of non-believers out there, but I think the offense showed signs of life and the defense showed just how good they can be. There has only been one other shutout in the NFL this year and you could argue that the defense is one of the deepest in the league. The Bears look to be peaking and finally figuring out the best way to use the Martz offense. While there are still a few kinks to work out, this week showed yet again that the Bears are progressing in the right direction. They will need their best performance of the season next week against Mike Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles. For now, let’s bask in the glow of this weeks win in Miami. One win closer to Super Bears, Super Bowl.