(MCT) — CHICAGO — As Danieal Manning approached the locker room following what amounted to a victory lap around Soldier Field, the Texans safety muttered a few words under a sinister smile.
“I got ‘em,” Manning said.
The onetime Chicago Bear insisted it wasn’t personal, but he had as much to do with defeating his former team Sunday night as anyone else on the Texans roster. His punishing hit on tight end Kellen Davis on the Bears’ first play from scrimmage resulted in a Davis fumble and turnover at the Texans’ 40, setting a defensive tone for the game.
“When you do that early and they were driving, it demoralizes them,” Manning said. “Especially down there when they could have easily gotten a field goal.”
Manning had a message for his former teammate after the big hit.
“It felt good,” Manning said, “because after I hit him, I told him, ‘This ain’t practice now. I can run through you.’ ”
Manning wasn’t done being a menace. Later in the first quarter, he picked off a poor Jay Cutler pass intended for Davis at the Texans’ 6-yard line. Again, he helped keep points off the board. And Manning nearly had yet another pick late in the game.
The performance may have made Bears fans wonder why the team decided not to increase their contract offer a few years back, when Manning left via free agency and signed a four-year, $20 million contract with the Texans.
Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was more than impressed with Manning.
“He’s outstanding,” Phillips said. “He’s a leader of the secondary and he’s a great player. I don’t know many safeties better than him.”
Manning was unsure what type of reception he would receive upon returning to Chicago. He admitted it was strange being in the visitors’ opposite room but felt welcomed by his former teammates before kickoff. Brian Urlacher gave him a thumbs-up after his interception.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak asked Manning to address the team Saturday night. Manning’s words clearly were inspiring.
“They stayed with me in not making it too personal,” Manning said of his teammates. “I didn’t want to be overzealous with all the hoopla about me leaving or not being able to get the contract that I wanted to stay here.”
The Texans made a defensive statement against a Bears team that was the best in terms of taking the ball away. It helped when Cutler left the game with a concussion. Manning admitted the defensive game plan changed when backup quarterback Jason Campbell took over.
The Texans rattled Cutler some and held Matt Forte to 39 rushing yards on 16 carries.
“Obviously J.J. (Watt) is having a phenomenal season, and rightfully so he should get all the press,” Manning said. “But this team, we all play together. ... We’ve been through everything. I told these guys in the meeting (Saturday) night that we’re a resilient group.”