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Eddie Jackson didn't just turn two turnovers into electrifying return touchdowns for the Bears on Sunday, giving them a two-touchdown lead they would not relinquish on their way to a 17-3 victory over the Panthers. The rookie safety tar-heeled Carolina with double-whammies.
Turnovers usually fall into one of two categories: Either a defense grabs a pick or recovers a fumble in its own end of the field, thwarting an opposing scoring opportunity, or it accomplishes the feat in the opposing end, setting up a score.
By becoming the first defensive player in NFL history to record two returns of more than 75 yards for touchdowns in one game, Jackson not only extinguished a scoring opportunity in the Bears' end with his fumble recovery for one kind of turnover, he raced back down the field to score for the other.
And when he deked Cam Newton to the ground on his way to his pick six it was a double double-whammy and it was more than enough points for the Bears as they improved to 3-4 on the season.
Eddie Jackson 1.
Eddie Jackson 2.
Overall, the Bears took playing not to lose to a whole new level. And it worked beautifully. Despite throwing all of seven forward passes and recording just five first downs, the Bears controlled the game throughout the second half.
What a performance by the defense. From the heart of the front line to the deepest part of the secondary, the Bears didn't just defeat the Panthers, they punished them.
The linebackers/defensive ends were great from the first snap until the last. If it wasn't Christian Jones flying downhill to blow up a screen pass for a TFL it was Danny Trevathan excelling against both the run and the pass. If it wasn't Leonard Floyd hurrying Cam Newton virtually all second half long and capping it off by going from providing contain on one side of the pocket to a big tackle all the way over on the other side, it was Pernell McPhee finishing it off with a sack and an awesome hurry.
The sacks were a bit of a concern on offense but one thing you realized in the second half was that you almost wanted Mitch Trubisky to take the sack rather than throw it away because the sack kept the clock running.
The Bears even avoided disasters on special teams, although a little luck played into that. Pat O'Donnell launched his best punt of the day over 55 yards in the air early in the second half. He didn't hit his next two efforts nearly as well but Panther return man Christian McCaffery had lined up so deep after the initial kick drove him way back, both those ensuing kicks landed on the ground and rolled further. O'Donnell's third punt of the half benefited from a champion roll that exceeded 20 yards.
Next up is the Saints on Sunday. The Bears didn't just win this game, they appeared to get out of it in relatively good health. They still have a long way to go to be competitive for the division (Minnesota sits atop the NFC North at an impressive 5-2 despite difficulties at quarterback), but we will take simple competitiveness.
I am looking forward to seeing what the Bear defense can do next week against the quarterback, Drew Brees, who has been the hottest signal-caller in the NFL so far this year. Oh, and perhaps Trubisky will give us at least a highlight or two as well.
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.