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Sunday, September 26

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Bears Mon Sep 15 2014

Kyle Fuller Delivers Improbable Road Victory for Bears

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngPhil Emery's job two summers ago was to fix the offense. He did so by bringing in four new linemen, Martellus Bennett, and getting a breakout season from his 2012 second-round pick in Alshon Jeffery.

After watching the defense get annihilated throughout the 2013 season, Emery had to transform the defense in the same way. Willie Young, one of the Bears' top free agent targets has had two monster games so far, but draft picks are the key to the team's present and future. First-round picks in the NFL are expected to produce immediately, and Kyle Fuller has done just that.

"We knew it since day one," Jay Cutler said. "Day one he came out there and was manning up B [Brandon Marshall] and Alshon."

Though he was hurt for much of the preseason, we've heard nothing but glowing compliments about Fuller's play from his coaches and teammates. Now we know why.

Not only did his two interceptions help flip the game from a 13-point deficit to a one-point lead, his play in the running game has been spectacular from the corner position. He tied for the team lead with seven tackles last night, with his most impressive stop coming on a play where Frank Gore had no running room in the middle where the play was designed, so he bounced out to his right to try and hit the edge. Fuller came flying in to make the tackle near the right sideline, and he started the play from the opposite side of the field.

His breaks on each of his interceptions against Colin Kaepernick were impressive. Though he might've arrived a split second early on his first pick, he ripped the ball away from Michael Crabtree, who 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said in January is "the greatest catcher of all time." After dropping a touchdown throw in the final seconds too, Harbaugh might might think about reconsidering.

On the next drive, it was Fuller again, this time fading away from Crabtree to snare a pass intended for a seemingly wide open Derek Carrier. Though the throw was probably one Kaepernick shouldn't have made (across his body, rolling to his left), it was a fantastic read by the rookie to detach from the guy he was covering to make a big play.

Fuller's game-changing impact is even more important on this Monday because of the scene we saw on the sidelines with Charles Tillman. The 12-year pro was tearing up on the sidelines after injuring the same right triceps that cost him half of his 2013 season. If the Bears lose one of their team leaders for the rest of the season, it'll be Fuller who jumps into the starting lineup with incredibly large shoes to fill. If we see more of the same guy on display last night, Bears fans can sleep easy knowing the demise of team won't be because of a significant loss in the secondary.

Though the sample is still small (even Marshall told Jay Cutler to "relax" after raving about Fuller afterward), it's outstanding performances like Fuller's that win games at this level. A road victory against one of the NFL's best teams the last few seasons kept the Bears tied for first in the NFC North, and puts them in the same position that everybody expected them to be in after two weeks anyway. It'll take a season full of steady performances from guys like Fuller for the Bears to finally break back into the playoffs.

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