Under the Headset  

 

Chicago Bears' stifling defense continues to make the difference

A handful of observations as we turn the page on Week 13 and head into Week 14:

» Bears really bring it. The Chicago Bears got another turnover on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. When Brian Urlacher punched the ball away from running back Marshawn Lynch and Kelvin Hayden recovered, it marked the 300th turnover by this defense under Lovie Smith. This somewhat generic Cover-2 defense is unbelievably opportunistic; the Bears really live the big-play mentality and are OK giving up a couple of extra yards per play while the first guy there tries to strip the ball. Charles Tillman also forced a fumble later in that game, but Seattle managed to recover the ball.

» Colts getting a lift from Luck. Andrew Luck is much like Peyton Manning in the way he makes the receivers around him better. Luck has obviously rejuvenated Reggie Wayne, who is on pace to notch career bests in numerous categories. However, I'm most impressed with T.Y. Hilton and Donnie Avery. Luck is making the Indianapolis Colts' young guys look really promising.

» Is the Pack back? When you look at the Green Bay Packers, it's hard not to think of the Packers team that won Super Bowl XLV. Like that team, this version of the Packers has been battling injuries all season long, hoping to get healthy just in time to seal a playoff spot and then make a run for the title. As happened in 2010, the Packers found some key playmakers to step up when the starters went down. This year, that player was Randall Cobb, who stepped up for both Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson and helped patch up issues in the backfield.

» The mighty Megatron. Against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, the Colts learned a lesson the rest of the league had already known: You simply can't stop Calvin Johnson with single-man coverage and no help over the top. Megatron finished with eight first-half catches and 13 total catches, both career highs, for a total of 171 yards. It's simply too much to ask Vontae Davis -- or any corner in the league, for that matter -- to handle Johnson on his own.

» Officially confused. Over the past couple of weeks, officials have made some calls that would have sparked a player revolt, had they been made by replacement officials. The latest example came in the matchup between the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans. Houston had clearly forced a fumble by Titans running back Chris Johnson before his knee hit the ground, and it was clearly recovered by the Texans, with no one even close to the defender who scooped the ball up and returned it for a touchdown. But the officials called the ball dead instead. Whether they thought the defender had been touched or someone blew an inadvertent whistle, it was a terrible mistake.

» Ponder-ous play. Remember when Christian Ponder started the season with four straight pick-free games? Well, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback has fallen fast. He made a terrible decision in the red zone on a rollout boot against the Packers on Sunday. Trying to hit a player on the backline, Ponder threw it right at the defender. Any team that is dominating on the ground with Adrian Peterson should just turn around and give the ball to him, especially when the quarterback has shown he can make very bad decisions. That blunder might have cost the Vikings the game; instead of giving Minnesota a seven- or 11-point lead, the momentum shifted to the Packers.

Follow Brian Billick on Twitter @CoachBillick.

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