In the 11th meeting in their history, the first place Chicago Bears (6-1 overall, 2-1 road) will visit the Tennessee Titans (3-5 overall, 2-2 home) at LP Field at noon on Sunday. The all-time series is tied up at five games apiece with the Titans winning the last meeting 21-14 at Soldier Field in 2008. The Bears offense has gross(man)ly changed since then, and Jay Cutler/Brandon Marshall should be salivating to feast on a Titans team that has given up 421.3 yards per game and 32.1 points per game this season.
The Bears defense will have its hands full with a resurgent Titans RB Chris Johnson, who has racked up 385 yards rushing in his last three games. Henry Melton, Stephen Paea and the Bears defense should be up to the task. On the season, they have allowed only one rushing touchdown and allow a league low 77.9 rushing yards per game.
The Titans will be without their second-year stud QB Jake Locker, but Matt Hasselbeck, who is familiar with the Bears from his days in Seattle (4-1 regular season, 0-2 playoffs), will continue to take over the reins. The last time he faced the Bears was in the playoffs after the 2010 season. He lost the game, but threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns (all in the fourth quarter). Don’t expect him to shy away from the deep ball or to try to dink-and-dunk his way down the field. The Titans have plenty of weapons in WR Nate Washington, WR Kendall Wright, TE Jared Cook and WR Kenny Britt (if he is healthy).
Let take a look at some more numbers you should be aware of before this Sunday’s game.
20: Rushing yards by the Titans in their last meeting with the Bears in 2008. (RB Chris Johnson had 14 rushes for a total of 8 yards.)
21: Number of games in Johnson’s career that he has had at least 100 rushing yards and at least one rushing touchdown.
2: Number of rushing plays over 20 yards given up by the Bears defense this season.
59: Number of combined punts (36), lost fumbles (7), and interceptions thrown (16) by Bears opponents this season; second highest total in the NFL. (Arizona Cardinals opponents have 61.)
35: Number of combined punts (27), lost fumbles (2), and interceptions thrown (6) by Titans opponents this season; lowest total in the NFL.
139.3: Average rushing yards per game given up by the Titans defense this season.
26.4: Average starting yard line when Bears take possession of the ball this season (best in NFL).
19.6: Average starting yard line when Bears opponents take possession of the ball this season (second best in NFL).
2: Number of Bears wide receivers under head coach Lovie Smith who have caught more than 60 passes in a season (Muhsin Muhammad in 2005/Bernard Berrian in 2007). Brandon Marshall currently has 50 receptions.
2006: The last time that the Bears recorded at least one sack and one takeaway in each of their first seven games. They have at least one sack and one takeaway in every game and at least four combined sacks/takeaways in each game this season.
274: Consecutive extra points made (including playoffs) by Robbie Gould, dating back to Week 14 in 2005 (NFL record held by Matt Stover with 451).
74: Bears point differential in the second half of games this season. The Bears have scored 121 second half points while holding their opponents to 47 points.
72.2: Bears third down conversion percentage (13-18) with three yards or less to go this season.
46.7: Bears opponents third down conversion percentage (14-30) with three yards or less to go this season.
90: Consecutive games played with at least one reception by Marshall (NFL record held by Jerry Rice with 274).
10: Total points scored by the Bears offense on their first drive of the game through seven games this season.
63-16: Bears record under Lovie Smith in games when they lead or are tied going into halftime.
14-42: Bears record under Lovie Smith in games when they trail going into halftime.
393 and 17: Number of minutes and seconds of Bears football that has been played since they last gave up a rushing touchdown (Donald Brown in the second quarter of Week 1 against the Colts).
The two most important things to look out for in this game are the Bears getting off to a fast start and the Bears defense stopping Chris Johnson. The Titans defense is one of the most porous in the NFL and if the Bears offense can’t take advantage of that, they have bigger problems on their hands than we thought. A few Bears scoring drives early in the game could seal the Titans fate.
We all know that Johnson can throw up a clunker every once in a while (45 total rushing yards in his first three games this season), but he can also take over a game. Simply put, the Bears defense will need to control the run game, and they can control the Titans offense.