(Miami Gardens, FL) No discount for the Bears 16-0 shutout of the Miami Dolphins Thursday night. Even though the Dolphins started their third string quarterback and lost their superstar wide receiver midway through the game, the Bears got a quality win on the road.
Under the eye of a national audience the Bears defense shutdown Dolphins quarterback Tyler Thigpen, with six sacks and one interception while completely shutting down their ground game. At the 3:48 mark in the first quarter and a 3-0 lead, the remainder of the game, unbeknownst to the Bears, was just a formality. The Bears players took no prisoners on the field and by the fourth quarter the Bears fans took over the rest stadium, outnumbering the fins fans overwhelmingly in South Florida.
With the Dolphins in a tight AFC East race any sense of urgency increasingly diminished after each possession for Miami. Conversely, the swagger for the now 7-3 Bears was palpable. “We dominated the time of possession and controlled the game for the most part,” said coach Lovie Smith. “But the story tonight was the defense. Getting a shutout is just tough no matter where you are, especially on the road.”
Recognized for their effective use of the wildcat formation the Dolphins elected to stay away from any gimmicks with the Bears. Starting running back Ronnie Brown was instead limited to just three carries in the game for 10 yards while backup Ricky Williams also had three carries for just one-yard.
“I think that'”you starting to talk about whether or not you didn’t run the ball or throw the ball'”now at one point you’re down 16 points you got to throw the ball,” said Dolphins Head Coach Tony Sparano. QB Tyler Thigpen was the leading rusher for the Dolphins with 27 yards on six carries.
“We got their offense one-dimensional,” said Brian Urlacher who became the all-time leading tackler in the Bears win. Urlacher went to 1,488 tackles after the win to pass Mike Singletary on the Bears historic list.
Adding to the defensive shutout gem Julius Peppers posted three sacks, three tackles for a loss, and a tipped pass in a signature performance. “He’s been doing it all year,” said Urlacher. “People say he hasn’t done it because of sacks but who cares? He gets pressure on the quarterback and he’s been there every game.”
Tyler Thigpen and the Dolphins had just one third down conversion on the night. Thigpen played two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs before his arrival to Miami, starting in 11 games in 2008 for the Chiefs.
Both Thigpen and Cutler had similar numbers on the night, Thigpen 29 passes, 17 completions for 187-yards and one interception. Cutler was 25 for 16 completions for 156 yards and one interception. “The way the defense was playing we didn’t have to do too much” said Cutler.
For the first time since the two left Denver, Cutler faced former teammate Brandon Marshall in a regular season game. Knowing his former receiver, Cutler may have planted the seed to get Marshall to incur an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after an 18 yard catch, costing the Dolphins a 15 yard penalty.
Marshall later took the heat for his performance. “I let a lot of people down,” Marshall said. “We all took our turns in stalling our team, myself included. [I] dropped two balls and got a dumb penalty fooling around with Jay Cutler. That’s not acceptable, especially in a game like that. We were all disappointed.” Marshall left the game late in the first half with a hamstring injury.
The Bears take a half game lead in the division over the Green Bay Packers and return to action at Soldier Field on Sunday, November 28th against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles. “It was a short week, but now we have a little bit of time off,” said Lovie Smith. “We will take the rest of the weekend off, but get back to work on Philadelphia Monday.”