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Whether or not it was a preview of the NFC championship game as some speculate remains to be seen. And the Bears don't view themselves as the NFC champions despite crushing the defending champion Seattle Seahawks 37-6 Sunday night.
But the Bears finished the first quarter of the season a perfect 4-0 for the first time since 1991 and did it as emphatically as any Bears team in recent history: three wins by more than 25 points in four games, including two on the road.
And significantly, they are undefeated in both division and conference play, two critical categories should the season come down to tiebreakers.
The Bears kept their first-quarter scoring streak going Sunday night when Rex Grossman hit Muhsin Muhammad with his seventh touchdown pass of the season.
The Bears have scored in every first quarter this season (3 TDs, 1 FG) and have not trailed at the end of a first quarter.
What went right: On the Bears' second possession, Grossman threw on six of the eight plays and snuck for a first down on another. With the Seahawks reeling, Thomas Jones ripped off a 15-yarder to the Seattle 11. After a 2-yard run by Jones, Muhammad got himself wide open for the touchdown. Brian Urlacher broke up a third-down pass in the end zone to force a Seahawks field goal.
What went wrong: The Bears came out to establish a run presence with Jones, but netted little on a first possession that ultimately served as misdirection. The Seahawks attacked cornerback Charles Tillman on their second possession and moved from their 38 to the Bears' 7 in three plays, leading to their field goal.
Quote: "I expected Moose to be the guy we picked up in free agency. He's a Pro Bowl-caliber player and he's been showing that all season, had another big game [in Minneapolis] and he's doing everything everyone expected him to do last year.
Grossman on Muhammad, who caught two passes in the quarter, one for a touchdown and one for a first down.
Call it the Manning Quarter as nickel back Ricky Manning Jr. intercepted his first two passes as a Bear and broke the game open.
Manning broke on a Matt Hasselbeck pass and picked it off at the Bears' 25. His 39-yard return set up Robbie Gould's second field goal of the game.
A series later, with Tommie Harris chasing Hasselbeck toward the sideline, Manning deflected a pass to himself and made it two in the quarter, setting up the Bears' second touchdown.
Manning came tantalizingly close to his third pick of the quarter when he deflected a Hasselbeck pass at the goal line.
What went right: Thomas Jones scored his first touchdown of the season, a 3-yard burst behind center Olin Kreutz and guards Roberto Garza and Ruben Brown. A 19-yard completion to Gabe Reid set up the score. Gould ran his string of field goals to 14, dating to last season, with two in the quartera 36-yarder and a 20-yarder. The Seahawks did not convert a third down until less than two minutes remained in the half and they trailed 20-3.
What went wrong: Seattle drove 75 yards for a field goal. But even that came with a note of Chicago domination: The Bears forced three incompletions from their 6-yard line.
Quote: "I think it's a good challenge for us as a secondary. But at the same time I get excited because you're giving Tank [Johnson], Tommie [Harris], Wale [Ogunleye], Alex [Brown], all our D-line a chance to really get after it."Cornerback Charles Tillman, who shook off a shaky first Seattle drive to help dominate the Seahawks' receivers.
If the issue was in any doubt after a 20-6 halftime lead, the Bears settled it for good with a crushing 11-play drive to begin the second half, removing any hope of momentum for a Seahawks team capable of scoring in bunches.
And it was as much how they did it as what they did that crushed Seattle. Thomas Jones powered through a quick front seven to pick up 29 yards on one of his five carries in the drive that finished with Jones popping through the line from the 1-yard line.
Meanwhile, the defense was keeping up its handling of the three- and four-wideout formations that coach Mike Holmgren was bringing at them. Hasselbeck missed on 7 of 8 passes at one point, while the Bears methodically drove for scores on two of their three possessions.
What went right: The running game, which was questioned after the first three weeks, found openings to reward coordinator Ron Turner's patience and persistence. After three quarters the Bears had 31 pass plays and 27 runs and nearly double the 59 rushing yards of Seattle.
What went wrong: When you're leading the defending NFC champions 34-6 after three quarters on national TV, the obvious problem is
Quote: "Whatever we need to be to win, we'll be that."Offensive coordinator Ron Turner, whose game plan had Seattle off balance throughout.
The white flag officially went up midway through the period when Hasselbeck was lifted for Seneca Wallace, and the Bears then began their victory lap by removing Grossman, Jones, center Olin Kreutz and guard Ruben Brown, moving guard Roberto Garza to center and inserting John St. Clair at right tackle. Brian Griese finished up at quarterback for the Bears, entering almost unnoticed in a stadium where his name was being chanted in the preseason by fans wanting him to start ahead of Grossman. Maybe those were all the fans who beat the rain out of Soldier Field in the Bears' decisive win.
What went right: Gould converted again, from 41 yards, after a Devin Hester punt return. Hasselbeck was easy pickings for the Bears' defensive line, with Alex Brown, Mark Anderson and Tommie Harris all getting sacks.
What went wrong: Brad Maynard had to punt twice, but, boy, we're really quibbling.
Quote: "The past couple years we haven't had these kinds of [passing] numbers, so I can understand people, if they're looking at us based on what we've done in the past. We're trying to do things a little differently here, but I like the way we're headed." coach Lovie Smith.