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posted: 9/23/2012 9:17 PM

A nose for the ball ... and hands to match

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  • Bears cornerback Tim Jennings breaks up a possible touchdown catch by Rams wide receiver Brandon Gibson during the Bears' 23-6 win Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field.

      Bears cornerback Tim Jennings breaks up a possible touchdown catch by Rams wide receiver Brandon Gibson during the Bears' 23-6 win Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Bears cornerback Tim Jennings keeps pressure on St. Louis Rams wide receiver Brandon Gibson during the first half at Soldier Field in Chicago.

      Bears cornerback Tim Jennings keeps pressure on St. Louis Rams wide receiver Brandon Gibson during the first half at Soldier Field in Chicago.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 

It's uncanny how much Bears cornerback Tim Jennings has been around the ball this season -- and especially how he's been able to capitalize on those opportunities.

Jennings, who never had more than 2 interceptions in any of his first six seasons in the league, already has 4 picks this year, including 1 Sunday against the Rams late in the game that helped preserve the Bears' 23-6 victory at Soldier Field.

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He made an even bigger play earlier in the fourth quarter, when the Bears were nursing a 13-6 lead.

Jennings deflected a pass that was intended for Danny Amendola but instead wound up dropping into the hands of Bears safety Major Wright -- who returned it 45 yards for a touchdown.

"The Hawk," linebacker Brian Urlacher said of the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Jennings. "Unbelievable every game. He's got to be playing better than anybody in the NFL right now."

Dating back to the final week of last season, Jennings now has an interception in four straight games, which no Bears player has done since Dave Duerson in 1986.

Jennings also broke up a pass in the season opener that was intercepted by safety Chris Conte.

"Tim Jennings has been outstanding," said Bears coach Lovie Smith. "He's making plays."

Jennings had 4 interceptions in 53 games over four years with the Colts, but he now has 7 picks in 35 games with the Bears. The former Georgia Bulldog contends he's always been in position to make plays, but in the past his unreliable hands betrayed him. That's a shortcoming he's corrected with extensive reps on the Jugs machine.

"Tim made a commitment to improve his game," Smith said. "Last year he had a lot of opportunities with his hands on balls, and he didn't make the play. You see him working on that trait every day.

"I don't know exactly how it happens, and why a player (at this stage) in his career goes through (such a development), but it's fun to watch it, and this is how it's supposed to happen."

Jennings said there's a simple explanation.

"It's not a science what's going on," he said.

"I'm able to catch them now. I've always been in good position, I just wasn't catching them last year. This year I'm able to do that. Right place at the right time, doing my job. This year I'm able to capitalize on the ones that I'm supposed to.

Jennings also paid tribute to his defensive line for the pressure they were able to exert on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, which resulted in 6 sacks and some rushed throws.

"With our front four, you're not going to just sit back there and pat the ball and find an open man," Jennings said. "We feel like if we can make them double pump, then our guys are going to get there. They did that today and we got some sacks and some takeaways."

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