Bears' defense stops Dalton when it counts

CHICAGO -- Defensive tackle Henry Melton admitted to feeling frustrated Sunday about how Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton seemed to tee off on Chicago’s defense, but he knew patience would eventually pay dividends.

Dalton torched the Bears for 189 yards in the first half and a pair of touchdowns, as he helped the Bengals convert five of seven third downs. What was more frustrating for Melton was that through the first two quarters, nobody seemed to be able to get a hand on the quarterback.

“He was getting it out extremely quick,” Melton said. “They had a good game plan. They were gonna just take what we were giving them, for sure. But if they were gonna do that, they would have to be perfect. If you’re not perfect, we’re gonna get turnovers.”

The Bears proved as much in the first half, with Charles Tillman picking off two Dalton passes (both intended for A.J. Green), one of which was thrown almost perfectly. The Bears turned one of those turnovers into a touchdown, an 8-yard pass from Jay Cutler to Martellus Bennett.

But Tillman seemed to struggle at times against Green. Even when it seemed the cornerback executed perfect coverage, Green and Dalton found a way to connect.

Green caught nine passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns, but the receiver did almost all of his damage in the first half. When Tillman left the game late in the second quarter due to dehydration, Green lined up over Tim Jennings and hauled in a 45-yard bomb for a TD that gave the Bengals a 14-7 advantage.

“He battled an elite receiver,” Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said of Tillman. “With some of those big plays, you can’t get in better position than [Tillman] was in. [Green] made some fantastic catches. But to get the ball out and create turnovers and get interceptions and stuff like that, that’s what we’re all about, and Peanut is the pinnacle of it.”

Jennings set up Cutler’s go-ahead touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall in the fourth quarter when he jarred the ball loose from the arms of Mohamed Sanu. Jennings scooped up the loose ball to set up the Bears on the 19.

“They’re a very explosive team,” Jennings said. “They’ve got their players, but we were able to make a little bit more of it toward the end on defense, and the offense carried us home.”

With the Bears finally ahead and the Bengals looking to mount a drive to take the lead with 7:58 left to play, the defensive line finally found a way to apply pressure to Dalton. The result: a Shea McClellin sack for a 5-yard loss.

Two plays later, Cincinnati punted, which allowed the Bears to run off the final 6 minutes, 38 seconds to seal the victory.

“There were times we were getting frustrated,” Melton said. “You couldn’t really even get into your pass-rushing moves because the ball was already coming out. They were playing small ball, but they were trying to lull you to sleep and then throw it deep.”