In only their third career meeting, the Chicago Bears (7-1, 4-0 home) will face off against the Houston Texans (7-1, 3-0 road) at Soldier Field on Sunday night in what some people think could be a Super Bowl preview. The Texans have won both previous meetings (24-5 in 2004, 31-24 in 2008) and are the only team in the NFL that the Bears have never beaten.
Both team’s defenses rank in the top six in the NFL in points allowed, rushing yards allowed and total yards allowed. Texans second year DE J.J. Watt leads the league with 10.5 sacks and has eight tackles for loss, 10 pass deflection and two fumble recoveries. He will be facing a Bears offensive line that has given up the third most sacks in the league with 28. Whether he matches up against a struggling Gabe Carimi or any other Bears linemen, you can bet that a double team will be coming his way.
The Bears defense will be led by CB Charles Tillman, who has a career high seven forced fumbles this season, and CB Tim Jennings, who leads the league with six interceptions and 15 passes defended. The Bears defensive line (23 sacks this season) will need to keep pressure on Texans QB Matt Schaub and the secondary will need to not be fooled by play-action passes. The Bears defense is the best in the league at not giving up the big play, and will need to be extra careful against the likes of Texans RB Arian Foster (847 total yards, 10 touchdowns) and WR Andre Johnson (562 receiving yards, six for 20+ yards).
Despite all that defense, the Texans (29.6 points per game) and Bears (29.5 points per game) rank second and third, respectively, in the league in scoring. Let’s check out some other numbers of note for the game.
1986: The last time the Bears went undefeated (4-0) against AFC opponents in a single season. (They are currently 3-0, having defeated the Colts, Jaguars and Titans.)
6: Number of turnovers by the Texans this season, lowest in the NFL.
3: Number of turnovers by the Texans in their only loss of the season to the Green Bay Packers.
455: Total yards by the Texans when they last met the Bears in 2008, led by WR Andre Johnson who had 10 catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
7: Number of times the Bears have started a season 7-1 or better since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. They made the playoffs each of those seasons (1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, and 2006).
102: The most points the Bears have scored in back-to-back games, which occurred in Week 3 (53-7) and 4 (49-0) of the 1941 season. They scored 51 last week against the Tennessee Titans.
2: Number of rushing touchdowns given up by the Texans in their last 16 games, dating back to Week 9 of last season.
0: Number of quarterbacks who have thrown for more than one touchdown against the Bears defense this season.
1: Number of times the Bears have been outscored in the second half of a game this season (Week 7 against the Detroit Lions, 3-7).
59, 797, 7: Number of receptions (21st), yards (31st) and touchdowns (18th) by Brandon Marshall this season, which already places him in the top 31 single-season performances in Bears history. He is on pace to break all three single-season Bears records.
4: Number of offensive plays over 30 yards given up by the Bears defense this season, lowest in the NFL.
12: Number of offensive plays over 30 yards by the Bears this season, ninth most in the NFL.
23-3: Bears record since 2010 when they score 18 or more points in a game.
0: Number of points scored by Bears opponents on their first offensive drive of the game this season.
4, 2: Number of times that QB Jay Cutler has been sacked and intercepted on the Bears first drive of a game this season (three times he was sacked on the Bears first offensive play).
226: Number of passing yards needed by Cutler to become the first Bears quarterback to throw for 2,000+ yards and 10+ touchdowns four times.
4: Number of times Texans QB Matt Schaub has turned the ball over this season.
12: Number of times Cutler has turned the ball over this season.
Sunday night is going to be a game decided by the quarterbacks, and the last two numbers listed above will play a big role in the game. Cutler will need to be a lot more careful with the ball, and the Bears defense will have to force Schaub to turn the ball over. Both teams pride themselves on defense, so whichever quarterback can find and exploit the other team’s weakness will win the game. Whatever you do, if you are attending the game, don’t mention the Bears offensive line to any Texan players. Shhhh. And remember to keep it down when the Bears are in the red zone. They are going to need all the help they can get this week.