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Chicago Bears win big, gain steam in NFC playoff race

The under-the-radar Chicago Bears don't get enough respect.

Despite Chicago's 7-1 start, some are reluctant to call them Super Bowl contenders. Following Sunday's 51-20 scattering of the Tennessee Titans, it's time for the Bears to be taken seriously in a crowded NFC.

In an age of NFL parity, this was a parade of dominance. The Bears' defense and special teams -- with a dash of offense -- built a 28-2 lead after only one quarter of play. At one stage, they scored 21 points in a little over two minutes.

The Titans' inability to hold onto the ball helped. Four of their five turnovers came in the first half and led to 28 Bears points. That included a blocked punt for a touchdown and linebacker Brian Urlacher's 46-yard interception return.

How one-sided was this team effort by the Bears? Consider the following:

»The Bears are the first team in NFL history with a touchdown pass, a touchdown run, a pick six and a blocked kick for a score in the same quarter.

» The Bears are just the third team in NFL history with eight defensive/return touchdowns through eight games.

» Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman is the first NFL player to force four fumbles in a game since the stat began to be tracked in 1991.

The knock on the Bears has to do with their offense. People aren't in love with Jay Cutler -- fair enough -- but the quarterback isn't asked to do it alone on this team. We're seeing what the Bears are capable of when all the lights are flipped on.

Coach Lovie Smith has his veteran-led Bears playing as one, which should have the rest of the NFC on high alert.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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