NASHVILLE – The Titans beat the Chicago Bears 24-17 on Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
Here's a look at six things that stood out from the game as the team begins to turn its attention to Thursday's game against the Indianapolis Colts:
Defense, Defense, Defense
For three quarters on Sunday the Titans held the Bears without a point, and I jokingly mentioned on Twitter how the unit was suddenly looking like the '85 Bears, one of the best defenses in NFL history. The comment was made in jest, of course. But on Sunday, the play of the defense was no joke. The Titans were suddenly a swarming bunch, forcing turnovers (two), sacking quarterbacks (three sacks), and getting stops on third down (Bears were 2-of-15). The Titans defense produced its best first-half numbers through eight games in yards allowed (105), passing yards allowed (79), rushing yards allowed (26), third-down percentage (0.0), points allowed (0), three-and-out drives forced (three), and first downs allowed (three). While the Bears put up some points in garbage time, the Titans looked like a different team on defense. Everyone, of course, hopes it's a sign of things to come.
55 Has Come Alive
Titans linebacker Jayon Brown was among the defenders who stood out against the Bears, and it continued his hot streak. Brown was credited with a team-high 10 tackles on Sunday. He also had a sack and a forced fumble, and he was in on a 4th-and-1 stop early. Brown has been on fire in recent weeks. He had a team high 12 tackles against the Bengals on November 1, and he had an interception, four passes defensed and a team-high eight tackles the previous week against the Steelers. He also had a team-high 10 tackles against the Texans. What can Jayon Brown do for you? During the past four games, the answer is "a lot."
Big DaQuan Jones
Defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons has been a disruptive force just about every week, and that continued against the Beas when he forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, and nearly intercepted a pass. But too often the guy who does the dirty work alongside him – DaQuan Jones – gets overshadowed. Jones was beastly himself on Sunday, tallying five tackles, a ½ sack, two tackles for a loss and a quarterback hit. Jones was a bully against the Bears, and his presence in the trenches is critical for the Titans.
A.J.'s a Gamer
Titans receiver A.J. Brown can change the flow of a game in a hurry with a big play, and I thought he did that on Sunday. The Titans were far from perfect against the Bears. In fact, they looked sloppy at times on offense, with too many drops and three-and-outs. But Brown had four catches for 101 yards and a touchdown – a tough 40-yard catch that saw him fight to get in the end zone. Brown also had a 38-yard snag that allowed him to show off his running skills, and field awareness. He's a difference maker on a lot of Sundays. Brown became the franchise's third player to eclipse 1,500 career receiving yards before his 24th birthday.
It felt, and looked, different on Sunday when the Titans specialists took the field. While kicker Stephen Gostkowski was there, injured No.6, Brett Kern, wasn't – he was replaced by No.8, punter Ryan Allen. New long snapper Matt Overton, decked out in No.47, handled the short and long snaps on a day when Beau Brinkley was slated to pass Elvin Bethea and Keith Bulluck for sixth place on the all-time consecutive games played list. Brinkley, of course, was released last week. Overall, the unit did a solid job. Gostkowski made his only field goal attempts, and three extra points. Overton was accurate, and Allen averaged 50.5 yards a punt. After a couple of tough days, special teams play was mostly solid on Sunday, although the Titans did get fooled on a fake punt. Defensive back Joshua Kalu was productive, with three stops on special teams.
Third Down Defense
Yes, I know I touched on this earlier. But after such a dramatic change of fate, this needs highlighting further. Let's put things in perspective here. The Titans entered Sunday's game allowing opponents to convert 61.86 percent of the time on third down, which put them in last place in the NFL. I'm telling you opponents were having a field day on third down, but you already knew that. Then came Sunday, when the Bears didn't convert a third down until late in the third quarter. Chicago was 0-of-10 at one point, and they finished 2-of-15 (13.3 percent). It was the lowest percentage by a Titans opponent since the 2019 season opener, when the Browns converted 10.0 percent (one conversion on 10 attempts). It was a crazy turnaround, and something the Titans hope they can continue.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Chicago Bears in Week 9 at Nissan Stadium. (Photos: Donald Page)