JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some worried the Chicago Bears were walking into a trap Sunday afternoon at EverBank Field, and the first half certainly resembled that.
But a defense that has been playing as well as the Bears’ was not going to be conquered by Blaine Gabbert, and Chicago blew things open in the second half of a 41-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs returned interceptions for touchdowns for the second consecutive game to puncuate the mauling, the first time in NFL history teammates have accomplished that feat.
The offense piled it on in the second half, racking up 310 yards after the score was deadlocked 3-3 at halftime. The Bears (4-1) totaled 501 yards of offense, the first time the club has topped 500 since Sept. 24, 1989.
The Bears opened the third quarter with a 17-play drive that consumed 9 minutes, 18 seconds but resulted in just a 31-yard Robbie Gould field goal, as two false-start penalties by right tackle Gabe Carimi inside the 10-yard line sabotaged the push for the end zone.
Two plays later, Tillman intercepted Gabbert and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown and a 13-3 lead. The Jaguars ran only four plays in the third quarter.
Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall (12 receptions 144 yards) caught touchdown passes from Jay Cutler (23-for-39, 292 yards), and then Brian Urlacher blew up Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew on a short pass over the middle and Briggs plucked the ball out of the air and rumbled 36 yards to the end zone.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Urlacher said. “It’s fun to be part of it and watch these guys do it.”
The Jaguars, who head into their off week at 1-4, were stunned, and coach Mike Mularkey indicated personnel changes will be discussed.
“I don’t know how all that happened,” Mularkey said. “I told the team I wish I knew what I could say to them afterward coming in from a 3-3 tie at the half, playing pretty good football, to let it escalate out of control.”
The Bears’ defense has scored five touchdowns on the season and ranks first with 14 takeaways, second against the run and sixth in yards.
“The bye is not coming at the best time,” defensive end Julius Peppers said. “It is, but it isn’t. We want to continue riding this wave, but it is a good opportunity for us to rest up and get guys healthy.”
While the defense is playing at an elite level, the offense clicked, too, as Matt Forte rushed for 107 yards on 22 carries, Michael Bush added 52 yards of offense and Armando Allen had a 46-yard touchdown run in garbage time..
The victory sends the Bears into the bye week with momentum and a favorable schedule ahead. Their next three opponents – Lions, Panthers and Titans – all have one win each, and the Lions and Panthers come to Soldier Field. Those games precede what will be a hyped showdown with the Texans (4-0) when they visit Nov. 11.