Members of the Chicago Bear defense including (L-R) Julius Peppers #90, Lance Briggs #55, Marcus Harrison #99, Matt Toeaina #75 and Israel Idonije #71 await the start of play against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on November 14, 2010 in Chicago.
But the offense isn't the only group who did well in third-down situations. Check out the defense five most pivotal stops on third down from last season:
Against Dallas, Bears forced a punt in the third quarter that sealed the game. Dallas was on the Bears' 39 with a fresh set of downs, but only gave up two yards. They forced two incomplete passes and only let Marion Barber pick up two yards.
In Green Bay game No. 1, which the Bears won by a field goal, the Bears defense held the Pack to a field goal in a key drive in the second quarter. Green Bay got as close as the Bears 20, but gave up a 10-yard penalty. Aaron Rodgers threw two incomplete passes, and then another one that was short of a first down. A touchdown and a PAT would have won the game. Instead, the Bears took the first of the three match-ups.
The first Minnesota game was the Bears' opportunity to show that they were truly a playoff team. Early in the second quarter, the Vikings were on the 11-yard line. Toby Gerhart netted zero yards on two carries, then Brett Favre threw an incomplete pass and Minnesota committed a 10-yard penalty. That display of defensive prowess was enough, but the Vikings kicker missed a 39-yard field goal.
The front seven are given the most credit in stopping third downs, but the Bears secondary stepped up against the Eagles. With the Eagles four yards from the end zone, Chris Harris intercepted Michael Vick, a QB who, at that point in the season, had not been picked off. He returned it for 39 yards, setting up the offense for one of Jay Cutler's four touchdown passes that day.
The Bears were warming up for the playoffs when they met up with the New York Jets. The game was a back-and-forth battle. The Bears took the lead late in the third, but the Jets were driving and a threat to score. Both LaDainian Tomlinson and Mark Sanchez were unable to generate offense, and on third down, Sancez threw an incomplete pass. The Jets only got a field goal out of the drive, and the Bears won by four points.