By Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Lovie Smith demanded a fast start from his Chicago Bears after a sluggish performance a week ago.
They certainly responded.
Charles Tillman forced four fumbles. Brian Urlacher scored on a 46-yard interception return. Plus, Chicago turned a blocked punt into a touchdown.
Jay Cutler threw three TD passes to Brandon Marshall just for good measure and the Bears put up their highest point total since 1980, routing the Tennessee Titans 51-20 on Sunday for their sixth straight win.
“We didn’t want to have a repeat of last week against Carolina,” Tillman said. “This week our whole motto was, `Let’s start fast.’ To create a turnover on the first play of the game was the mindset going into the game.”
Tillman did just that, stripping Titans receiver Kenny Britt on Tennessee’s first offensive play and proving how exceptionally dangerous these Bears are even when they don’t start with the ball.
The Bears (7-1) scored a franchise-record 28 points in the first quarter. They took control by creating three turnovers in the first 13 minutes, resulting in 14 points.
Urged on by its coach, Chicago wound up with takeaways, beginning with the first Tennessee snap.
“It has to be upsetting when you know our reputation coming in,” Smith said. “It’s not like it’s the first one we’ve done. Every team we’ve played has the mindset that this team will strip the ball. That’s who we are.”
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.
The Bears had already topped the 50-point mark with 10 minutes still left. They posted their highest-scoring game since matching a team record in a 61-7 win over Green Bay on Dec. 7, 1980. 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.”
The Titans (3-6) lost their second straight, giving up the most points since a 59-0 loss to New England on Oct. 18, 2009. Coach Mike Munchak said they had warned the Titans all week how crucial protecting the ball would be against the Bears.
“We made it easy on the Bears to beat us,” Munchak said. “But they took advantage of all the opportunities we gave them.”
Tennessee’s lone highlight when Chris Johnson scored on an 80-yard run in the fourth quarter. Johnson finished with 141 yards on 16 carries 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.
Tillman, the NFC defensive player for October, started the Bears’ first-quarter spree with the strip of Britt the Bears’ 24th turnover this season. The cornerback also forced two fumbles by Johnson and later stripped tight end Jared Cook .
“He just finds a way of getting his hands on the ball, knocking the ball out and always being around the ball,” Johnson said.
Cutler tossed TDs of 13, 39 and 5 yards to Marshall and finished with 229 yards passing. Cutler, who starred in Nashville in college at Vanderbilt, spent the final 10 minutes watching Jason Campbell mop up. Matt Forte ran for a TD and finished with 103 yards.
The Bears got on the board first with special teams.
Sherrick McManis ran untouched around the right edge and blocked Brett Kern ‘s punt, and Corey Wootton grabbed the ball and stumbled 5 yards into the end zone for a touchdown with 6:44 left in the first quarter. The Titans came back with a safety when Bears left tackle J’Marcus Webb grabbed at defensive end Kamerion Wimbley ‘s face in the end zone.
Otherwise, the Bears dominated. Urlacher picked off Matt Hasselbeck and stepped over the Titans quarterback on his way to the end zone two plays after Forte’s TD run. Tillman forced another fumble on Tennessee’s next offensive play, and Chris Conte recovered.
“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.”
Cutler capped the scoring for the first quarter with his first TD pass to Marshall and a 28-2 lead with 93 seconds still left.
Even in the blowout, the Bears showed their offense still needs some work. They outgained the Titans 358-333 despite holding the ball for 37 minutes against a Tennessee defense that came in ranked 30th in yards allowed. The Bears also settled for three field goals by Robbie Gould , the longest 39 yards.
The Titans sacked Cutler three times and force one fumble. That set up a 39-yard field goal by Rob Bironas to pull within 31-5 after three failed attempts throwing into the end zone – two nearly picked off by the Bears.
NOTES: The Bears now have won four of the past five in this series. … The Bears topped the 24 points they scored in the first quarter Oct. 29, 2006, against San Francisco. … Marshall finished with 122 yards receiving for his fourth game over 100 yards this season. … Johnson tied Jim Brown for the second-most 110-yard rushing games in a player’s first five seasons with 28.
Massoni’s two-run single leads White Team in Game 2 win
CLARKSVILLE – Third baseman Craig Massoni’s two-run sixth-inning single provided the game-winning runs in a White Team 7-6 series-tying victory, Saturday, in Game 2 of Austin Peay State University baseball team’s Red-White World Series at Raymond C. Hand Park.
The Red-White World Series continues with a 1 p.m. game today at Raymond C. Hand Park. Admission is free to all fans.
A see-saw battle throughout, the White Squad trailed 4-1 before scoring two runs each in the fourth and fifth innings to take a 5-4 lead. Second baseman Jake Walters led off the fourth inning with a home run and catcher P.J. Torres added a RBI single. Walters struck again with an RBI single in the fifth and the White Team took the lead courtesy a passed ball.
The Red Squad regained the lead in the fifth on left fielder Austin Atwell’s two-run home run to left field. However, those would be the last runs the Red Squad would score.
The White Team rallied with two outs in the sixth, shortstop Kevin Corey starting the rally with a walk. Left fielder Cody Hudson singled and, after he moved to second base, the Red Squad intentionally walked Walters to load the bases. The tactic did not pay off as Massoni singled to drive home two runs.
The Red Squad will look back at the first and second innings when base-running gaffes cost it a chance at more runs. The Red Squad scored two runs in the first, but left two runners on base after the trailing runners lost track of the lead runner stopping at third. Catcher Matt Wollenzin attempted to score from third as the defense scrambled to take advantage of the miscue, but was tagged out at home to end the inning.
The Red Squad struck for two more runs in the second, but second baseman Jordan Hankins was tagged out at home on a on-target throw by right fielder Matt Meadows to end the inning with two runners left on base.
Walters finished the day 3-for-3 with three RBI. Hudson also had three hits and scored three times. Corey and first baseman Kyle Schlatter each had two hits.
Centerfielder Dylan Riner was 3-for-5 with two runs scored from the Red Squad’s leadoff spot. Catcher Matt Wollenzin was 1-for-1 with an RBI and three walks. Shortstop Brett Carlson was 2-for-4 with a RBI.
Zach Hall started on the mound for the White Team and went 4.2 innings but allowed six runs on nine hits, walked seven batters but struck out six. Brian Krolikowski (1-0) picked up the win in relief, recording two outs while briding the gap to closer Jared Carkuff who picked up the save with 1.2 innings of scoreless relief.
A.J. Guara started for the Red Squad and allowed five runs on 11 hits over four-plus innings. Reliever Tyler Rogers (0-1) suffered the loss after allowing two runs on three hits and three walks, striking out four, over three innings.
Ridenhour steers Red Squad to Game 1 win in RWWS
CLARKSVILLE -Starting pitcher Lee Ridenhour pitched a complete-game shutout to lead the Red Squad past the White Team, 2-0, Friday, in the opening game of Austin Peay State University baseball team’s Red-White World Series at Raymond C. Hand Park.
Ridenhour allowed two hits and no walks while striking out five in the seven-inning contest. He retired the first 10 batters he faced before allowing a fourth-inning single to center fielder Tommy Hager. However, Ridenhour erased that hit as he caught Hager stealing. He would allow only a fifth-inning single to third baseman Craig Massoni before retiring seven of the final eight hitters he faced.
White Team starter Casey Delgado matched Ridenhour through four innings, allowing one base hit in each inning. However, he surrendered an infield single to left fielder Austin Atwell and an RBI triple to designated hitter Wesley Purcell to break up the scoreless tie. He would give up three straight singles in the sixth, Atwell striking again with an RBI infield single to account for the Red Squad’s second run.
Atwell finished the night 3-for-3 with an RBI and two infield singles to lead the Red Squad. Catcher Matt Wollenzin was 2-for-3 with a triple and a run scored. Purcell also was 2-for-3 with a triple and a RBI. Second baseman Jordan Hankins and first baseman Michael Davis each added one hit.
Hager and Massoni had the White Team’s only hits. Delgado suffered the loss after allowing two runs on nine hits over six innings. Closer Brian Krolikowski allowed a walk and struck out one in the seventh inning.
APSU Red-White World Series Photo Gallery
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans have had considerable balance on offense in their past two games, but will go with what they think will work best against the Bears on Sunday.
Tennessee has had 52 rush attempts and 62 pass attempts in the past two weeks but tailor the game plan each week according to the opponent.
Chicago ranks first in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (77.9), 18th in passing yards (238.1 per game) and seventh overall (316 yards per game). Bears opponents have one rushing touchdown and six passing scores this season.
Chris Johnson, who has rushed for an NFL-best 385 yards since Week 6 said running against Chicago will be a “tough task” but added “I feel like if we do what we’ve got to do we should have some success.”
“They like to play a lot of eight-man in the box,” Johnson said. “I’m pretty sure when we play against them, they’re going to have eight down there, so if the passing game can make some plays and back some of those guys up, we should be good.”
Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said the plan adjusts game by game.
“Against certain defenses, you’re going to feature different guys because of the matchups,” Palmer said. “You’re constantly adjusting, and you hope everyone understands that.”
Jared Cook said it will be important for tight ends and receivers to run precise routes against Chicago, but added the Titans have seen some opportunities where they can attack the Bears.
“We were watching that on film, just getting in and out of our routes, getting our route depth, and getting over the top of the linebackers because a lot of times they move up,” Cook said. “Being able to get open against these guys is a key because they have a good secondary. We’ve seen that. We just have to make sure we’re precise in our route depths and precise in running the right routes.”
Completing passes early and often may lead Chicago to pull a safety off run support and leave seven players closer to Johnson. Matt Hasselbeck, who will make his fifth consecutive start at quarterback in place of injured second-year pro Jake Locker, has been extremely accurate early. Hasselbeck completed his first eight attempts at Buffalo, and his first five against Indianapolis.
Hasselbeck and Johnson said the Bears, who have 15 combined Pro Bowls by linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, play with speed and play well together.
“The defense understands the concepts, they’ve had continuity, they’ve been running this defense for 10 years or something like that,” Hasselbeck said. “They’re not afraid to go make plays.”
Added Johnson: “They’ve got a lot of veterans, smart guys, over there. There’s not too many times they make mistakes, so it’s a situation where we’re going to have to execute our plays, the quarterback is going to have to know when to check out of the run.”
LUTUI TO START AT RIGHT GUARD
Titans coach Mike Munchak said Friday that Deuce Lutui will start at right guard in place of Leroy Harris, who suffered a knee injury on the Titans’ opening possession against the Colts.
It will be the first time Lutui, a seven-year NFL veteran, has been active this season since joining the Titans in September. Lutui, however, has 72 career starts and 93 games of experience at right guard.
Munchak said coaches have been pleased with Lutui, and starting him at the post where he has so much experience will allow Tennessee to use Kevin Matthews as the “swing guy,” who would come in if the Titans suffered an injury at either guard position or center. Matthews relieved Harris against Indianapolis, and drew credit from coaches. It is unclear how long Harris will be sidelined.
“Since this could be a week, could be two weeks, whatever it may be, we think the best thing to do is go with Deuce,” Munchak said. “He has quite a few starts in the league. He’s very comfortable playing right guard, that’s the position he’s played his whole career at Arizona. That way, Kevin can still swing two spots, so if something would happen, we don’t have to make double moves or put more on him to be able to play multiple positions and get ready for the game plan.”
Lutui said he is anxious about the start and wants to deliver for teammates.
“I’ll do my best to not miss a beat and really be ready this Sunday,” Lutui said. “It will be for me, you know, I’ve played in a lot of games, and I think the timing is perfect for me to be in this situation to compete and step for the team and (do) what the team needs me for.”
Center Fernando Velasco (concussion) and right tackle David Stewart (knee) — the two players on each side of Lutui — were on the injury report this week. Velasco practiced fully Friday and is probable for Sunday, and Stewart missed Wednesday and Thursday but practiced Friday and is questionable.
“It’s adequate enough to where I think in another day or two, he’ll be fine,” Munchak said. “I’m sure he’s a little stiff and sore, but he got through it. He’ll just get used to the brace, but I think he’ll be fine on Sunday.”
A total of 13 players, nearly one-fourth of the roster, were on the injury report this week, but most are probable for Sunday’s game.
Players listed as probable include: Kenny Britt (knee), Michael Griffin (hip), Colin McCarthy (ankle), Michael Roos (abdomen), Velasco, Nate Washington (knee) and Kamerion Wimbley (toe).
Stewart, Tommie Campbell (ankle) and Will Witherspoon (hamstring) are questionable. Locker (left shoulder) is doubtful, and Harris and Patrick Bailey (ribs) have been ruled out.
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Austin Peay State University’s men’s basketball team used a late 12-0 run over a span of 2:59, Saturday night at the Dunn Center, to dismiss a stubborn Central Missouri squad 75-66 – in an exhibition game to open the 2012-13 season.
The game marked the fifth straight year Austin Peay and Central Missouri — a Division II basketball power — have played a season-opening exhibition contest. Central Missouri assistant coach Brad Loos is the son of APSU head Dave Loos.
Trailing 57-54 following a jumper by the Mules Matt Webb, Austin Peay reeled off 12 straight points, including five from junior Will Triggs, to take the lead for good 66-57 – with 3:45 left in the game.
Webb would end the run with a jumper, with 3:28 left in the game, but the Mules wouldn’t get any closer than six points the rest of the way – the last coming with 24 second left at 72-66.
“I thought we beat a good team with a lot of experienced players and that’s the important thing to me,” Austin Peay coach Dave Loos said. “They have a lot of seniors and we have a lot of young players and we were a little mistake prone tonight. We did cut down on the turnovers in the second half with seven, but that’s still a few too many.
Triggs, along with Anthony Campbell, would lead the Govs with 17 points each, while Chris Freeman came off the beach to score 16 points and record a team-high eight rebounds.
But maybe the biggest highlight of the run was a coast-to-coast play by freshman Chris Horton – who only played 10 minutes due to foul trouble – as he blocked a Widgett Washington jumper, recovered the rebound and raced the length of the floor to finish the play with a thunderous slam dunk.
“(Chris) Horton only played 10 minutes with foul trouble,” Loos said. “Chris Freeman came off the bench and had a really good game for us, but we also need to keep Horton in the game too. That coast-to-coast play kind of scared me a little with him running the break, but it also showed what he is capable of too.”
Overall, Horton scored six points, on 3-of-3 shooting from the floor, while also recording four rebounds.
The Govs were also solid at the line down the stretch, making 7-of-8 in the final four minutes, including five coming from Campbell.
Overall, Austin Peay finished the night going 20-of-24 from the line.
From the floor, APSU connected on 25 of 46 shots (54.3 percent), while limiting Central Missouri to just 40.3 percent (25 of 62). That helped offset the Govs 20 turnovers and the Mules’ 34-30 rebounding edge.
Five Central Missouri players scored in double figures, led by Charles Hammork and Webb each scoring 15 points, with the latter also snaring 10 rebounds. Dominique Long added 14 points.
“Our defense was really pretty good in the first half,” Loos said. “But in the second half they were able to get to the rim a little bit easier.”
In the first half, Austin Peay led by as many as nine points early on, 16-7, but saw Central Missouri rally to take the lead twice in the first half, before a bucket by Triggs with five seconds left knotted the score at 35-35 at intermission.
The Governors officially will open the 2012-13 season this Friday when they play host to Samford in 7 p.m.
Austin Peay 75, Central Missouri 66
Central Missouri 35-31—66
Austin Peay 35-40—75
Central Missouri: Matt Webb 15, Lance Beckwith 10, Dominique Long 14, Widgett Washington 2, Reggie Stallings 10, Charles Hammork 15. Team totals 25 11-17 66.
Austin Peay: Anthony Campbell 17, Will Triggs 17, Travis Betran 8, Thomas Greer 2, Herdie Lawrence 3, Chris Freeman 16, A.J. Lynch 6, Chris Horton 6. Team totals 25 20-24 75.
3-point field goals: Central Missouri 5 (Long 2, Beckwith 1, Stallings 2), Austin Peay 5 (Campbell 2, Betran 2, Lynch 1).
Central Missouri at APSU Photo Gallery
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Two touchdowns in the game’s first three minutes powered Austin Peay State University’s football team to its first win of the season, Saturday afternoon at Governors Stadium, as the Govs hammered Culver-Stockton 56-0.
Thee win broke a 10-game losing streak for the Govs and marked the first shutout authored by Austin Peay since a 40-0 win over Central State on Nov. 5, 2011, while the 56 points were the most scored by the Govs since they put up 59 against Kentucky Wesleyan on Oct. 20, 2001.
Austin Peay (1-8) would only needed four plays and 51 seconds to go 71 yards for its first score of the day, with Ean Pemberton going in from 20 yards out.
The second came on a short field, as defensive end Iosua Silva sacked Culver-Stockton (1-9) quarterback Curtis Widener, causing a fumble, with Anthony Marion recovering for Austin Peay at the Wildcats nine.
Three plays later, Terrence Oliver would score on a seven-yard rush to give the Govs a 14-0 lead with 12:17 left in the first quarter.
“That’s what we talked about doing,” said Austin Peay coach Rich Christophel of the quick start. “That’s what it’s supposed to be like, but then you get chances you need to convert them into points.
“It’s easy to do that when you’re either going to kick field goals or score touchdowns, but what we did (today) is convert them into touchdowns.”
The Govs weren’t through scoring in the opening quarter, as they would force a second fumble by Widener on the Wildcats next drive, with Austin Peay recovering at the Culver-Stockton four.
On the first play following the fumble recovery, Govs quarterback Jake Ryan would hit Devin Stark in the back-right corner of the end zone for a touchdown as a 21-0 lead, with 10:44 left in the first quarter.
Ean Pemberton would score his second touchdown of the opening quarter on the Govs next drive, as Austin Peay went 51 yards on nine plays, culminating with a 14-yard run by Pemberton to make it 28-0.
Pemberton led all rushers Saturday with 112 yards on eight carries. It was the sixth time this season a Governor rushed for 100 or more yards as APSU finished with 378 rushing yards.
“I think Culver-Stockton was worried about us getting the ball to the edge,” Christophel said. “That opened some stuff up in the middle.”
The scoring onslaught would continue in the second quarter, with Austin Peay getting into the end zone three more times for a 49-0 advantage at intermission.
The first score of the second quarter came on a 10-yard pass to Tyle Clendenen from Ryan, while Ashton Adams and Oliver scored on runs of six- and 11-yards respectively.
But it wasn’t just the Govs offense that was getting it done versus the Wildcats, as the Austin Peay defense limited Culver-Stockton to 41 total yards of offense on the day – while forcing five turnovers.
“We did a good job on both sides of the ball on the line of scrimmage,” Christophel said. “That’s something we haven’t always been able to say. We forced five turnovers and we didn’t turn the ball over and that makes a difference in the game. We’re not going to be able to do that with everybody, because we’re in a tough league.
“I think we’re getting a little closer. We were able to getting a little more pressure on their quarterback and that helped our secondary played better and get into positions for the three interceptions.”
The final score of the day came in the fourth quarter on a 27-yard run by backup quarterback Jacob Sexton, with Walter Spears kicking the extra point, after starting kicker Stephen Stansell was as a perfect 7-for-7 in the first half.
Sexton finished with 78 yards rushing, the most since Daniel Williams ran for 181 yards against Tennessee Martin on Nov. 23, 1996.
Austin Peay 56, Culver-Stockton 0
Culver-Stockton 0 0 0 0—0
Austin Peay 28 21 0 7—56
AP—Ean Pemberton 20-yard run (Stephen Stansell, kick), 14:09
AP—Terrence Oliver 7-yard run (Stansell, kick), 12:17
AP—Devin Stark 4-yard pass from Jake Ryan (Stansell, kick), 10:44
AP—Pemberton 14-yard run (Stansell, kick), 4:448
AP—Tyle Clendenen 10-yard pass from Ryan (Stansell, kick), 14:45
AP—Ashlon Adams 6-yard run (Stansell, kick), 11:19
AP—Oliver 11-yard run (Stansell, kick), 1:48
AP—Jacob Sexton 27-yard run (Walter Spears, kick), 7:26
First Downs 5 25
Rush Att.-Yards 27-10 61-378
Pass Yards 31 69
Total Offense 41 447
C-A-I 6-17-3 8-13-0
Punts-Avg. 6-37.2 0-00.0
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 2-0
Penalties-Yards 3-35 4-20
Culver Stockton at Austin Peay Photo Gallery
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — It wasn’t pretty, but Austin Peay State University’s volleyball team locked up a spot in the Ohio Valley Conference post-season tournament by rallying from two games down Saturday versus Southeast Missouri to defeat the Redhawks 3-2 by scores of 19-25, 20-25, 25-23, 27-25 and 15-7.The Lady Govs (16-14, 9-5 OVC West) only led once in the first two games, despite keeping both games close until the end, but couldn’t force side outs with Southeast Missouri hitting for a .394 attack percentage in both games.
But the third game would see the Lady Govs get a spark from senior Alex Sain, as the right-side hitter totaled seven kills in the game, while SEMO (18-12, 10-4 OVC West) saw its offense go cold by hitting only .104.
“We went from playing so poorly in the first two games to really not playing a whole lot better but finding a way to win,” Austin Peay first-year coach Taylor Mott said. “I give our girls credit, they hung in there, played hard and everyone did their jobs.
“As for Alex (Sain), they didn’t respect her a whole lot and they left her out there by herself and she really stepped up and did the job for us.”
But as big as the third game win was to keep the match going, the fourth game was probable the turning pint of the match.
There would be nine ties and five lead changes in the fourth game, with Southeast Missouri having a match-point situation at 24-23, but Lady Govs middle blocker Lauren Henderson had a kill to tie the set and outside hitter Nikki Doyle and Sain added consecutive kills to get Austin Peay to game-point, 25-24.
Southeast Missouri fended off the first set point, but Sain again put down a kill and Henderson followed with a service ace to win the set, 27-25, and even the match 2-2.
Austin Peay carried that momentum into the fifth set, scoring the first three points and extending that out to an 11-4 advantage, before closing out the game and the match with an 15-7 win.
Four Austin Peay hitters reached double-digit kills, but Sain had the most impressive numbers with a career-high 18 kills — 16 in the final three game — while posting a .441 attack percentage. Doyle added 19 kills, with Henderson and Jada Stotts each chipped in 14 kills.
Emily Coon led Southeast Missouri with 21 kills and a .378 attack percentage.
The Lady Govs continue their regular-season ending four-match homestand with a 7 p.m., Tuesday contest against Murray State.
NOTES: Austin Peay improved to 5-2 in five-set matches… the Lady Govs won for the third time when losing the first two sets… Austin Peay won its sixth consecutive home match… Doyle finished the night with 404 kills on the season, becoming the first Lady Govs player to record three 400-kill seasons during their career.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The stat sheet simply reinforces what Titans defenders know.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler wants to throw the ball to Brandon Marshall on Sunday when Chicago (6-1) visits Tennessee (3-5) at LP Field.
Cutler is 125-of-215 passing this season for 1,545 yards. Marshall has accounted for 50 catches, 675 yards and four touchdowns on 80 targets, and no other Bears player has 20 receptions on the season.
Part of the propensity is an injury to rookie Alshon Jeffery, who will miss his third straight game, part is chemistry that Cutler and Marshall developed earlier in their careers with Denver, and part is because it’s yielded considerable success this season.
Titans cornerback Jason McCourty said Cutler is “not afraid to hold onto that ball and make several throws,” despite tight coverage on Marshall, who has 34 catches for 461 yards and three touchdowns in the past four games.
“With Alshon Jeffery going down, Brandon Marshall’s catches have skyrocketed even more than where they were at,” McCourty said. “They definitely have a good connection. You can tell when they’re out there, he’s looking for him and getting the ball to him. Brandon Marshall is an extremely talented wide receiver, so even if he’s covered, (Cutler) can force the ball in there and (Marshall) can come up with the catch, so it’s going to be a challenge for us.”
This will be the first time for many Titans to play the Bears in the regular season, but McCourty and Alterraun Verner did see Marshall in 2010 when he was a member of the Miami Dolphins. Tennessee limited Marshall to three catches for 34 yards that day.
“I remember we said we had to be physical with him, try to almost take him out of his game a little bit, but it’s hard,” Verner said. “I mean he’s an elite receiver, and he and Jay Cutler have a great connection together, so we’ve got to be aggressive and try and dislodge the ball from him because he has really good hands, and Jay Cutler tries to find him and get the ball to him.”
Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said Marshall has been making catches “even when there’s guys draped on him.”
Chicago has been fairly balanced on offense with 202 rushes and 216 pass attempts, but has given up 25 sacks of Cutler, including seven in their loss to the Packers and 11 in the past two weeks.
Detroit, which did not record a sack against Tennessee in Week 3, dropped Cutler for a loss five times for minus-25 yards, and Carolina sacked him six times for losses of 55 yards last week.
Titans defensive end Derrick Morgan said limiting Chicago’s success at running the ball will be important in producing similar results this week.
“If you watch film, you can see what’s going on and know that there’s going to be an opportunity out there if you execute and take care what you’ve got to take care of,” Morgan said. “We’ve got to win on first down to actually get an opportunity to rush the passer because if we don’t, they’re going to run it all day. So, we’ve got to stop the run first.”
The Titans have 11 sacks on the season and have recorded at least one sack in each of the past for games and registered two against Colts rookie QB Andrew Luck. Titans coach Mike Munchak has said sacks don’t always reveal the total amount of pressure a defense is able to apply.
The Titans said they hope to pressure Cutler so much that it adversely affects his performance the way the Packers did. Green Bay held Cutler to 11-of-27 passing for 126 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions.
The Bears rallied for a fourth quarter win last week against the Panthers, and the Titans fell in overtime to the Colts, despite keeping Indianapolis out of the end zone for the game’s first 56 minutes. Tennessee wants to recover and make it to 5-5 before its bye, and that would require winning its only home game of November on Sunday.
“You’ve got to play hard and aggressive football for 60 minutes,” Verner said. “We’ve got to try to put together a complete football game, and I don’t think we’ve done that so far.
“It’s critical to win, no matter where we are,” Verner continued. “This is a big game. All the games from here out are going to be very big, but this one’s definitely going to be big against a high-quality opponent like the Bears, but it’s something we need.”