Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher has been criticized over the last few years for his lack of impact plays. It has been a fair criticism.
Leading your team in tackles is all fine and dandy, but when you're the best player on a defense, you need to come up with some sacks and some turnovers. Urlacher hasn't always done that. We'll give him a pass for last season, because he was hurt pretty much all year. But go back and look at the numbers from two years ago - Urlacher's last healthy season - and you'll see that he had no sacks, no forced fumbles and only two interceptions. That's not good enough for a player of Urlacher's ability.
In fact, Urlacher hadn't forced a fumble since the 2006-07 season. That is, until Monday night. With the score tied 17-17 and less than three minutes to go, Urlacher poked the ball out of the hands of Green Bay receiver James Jones. Tim Jennings recovered for the Bears at the Packer 46-yard line with 2:18 to play.
The offense moved the ball down inside the 1-yard line and Robbie Gould kicked a field goal that was the equivalent of an extra point with four seconds left. Bears win 20-17.
And, oh, Urlacher wasn't the only one doing something he hadn't done in ages. We had a Devin Hester sighting on Monday night as well. Hester broke loose on a 62-yard punt return in the third quarter that gave the Bears their first lead of the night at 14-10. It was his first punt return for a touchdown since Dec. 30, 2007.
The big plays by Urlacher and Hester allowed the Bears to pull their second consecutive upset and improve their record to an improbable 3-0. Frankly, I'm stunned. I figured this team would be 1-2 at this stage.
One thing is for certain, the NFC is wide open right now. Dallas and Green Bay were considered Super Bowl favorites coming into the season. The Bears have beaten both. The Packers seem to have a more complete team than the Bears, but they self-destructed in Monday's game. Green Bay committed a whopping 18 penalties for 152 yards. Many of them were of the stupid variety.
The Packers had a touchdown nullified when Mark Tauscher was called for a blatant hold on Julius Peppers. The drive stalled and Peppers blocked a field goal. Green Bay came away with no points. The Packers also had an interception taken away when a Green Bay player - I didn't catch the number - hit Bears quarterback Jay Cutler with a helmet-to-helmet shot. Cheap and stupid. The Packers got the loss they deserved for their idiotic play.
Now, the Bears have a short week before heading to New York to play the Giants on Sunday Night Football next week. I'm not sure this team has what it takes to sustain this success -- the offensive line is still a huge question mark, the pass rush is iffy, etc. But it's really hard to complain about 3-0 at this point.