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updated: 10/19/2012 6:36 PM

Bears continue to have nose for the football

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  • Bears cornerback Charles Tillman returns an interception for a touchdown against the Cowboys on Oct. 1.

      Bears cornerback Charles Tillman returns an interception for a touchdown against the Cowboys on Oct. 1.
    Associated Press

  • Green Bay's Jermichael Finley (88) fumbles as he is hit by Chicago Bears' Charles Tillman (33) during the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. The Bears recovered the fumble.

      Green Bay's Jermichael Finley (88) fumbles as he is hit by Chicago Bears' Charles Tillman (33) during the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. The Bears recovered the fumble.
    Associated Press

 
 

Taking the ball away isn't second nature for the Bears' defense.

"It's first nature," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "That's how we are. We don't have a choice. If we don't strip the football, if we don't score when we catch it, we get a tongue lashing, so we have to do that."

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The Bears are tied with the Atlanta Falcons for the NFL lead with 17 take-aways, and they've played one less game than Atlanta. Five of their league-best 13 interceptions have been returned or touchdowns, tying a single-season franchise record. The Bears are also the first team in NFL history to return 5 interceptions for touchdowns in their first five games of the season.

"Coach (Lovie) Smith talks about getting the football out every day," Urlacher said. "He comes into our huddle and says, 'Strip the ball, strip the ball.' We catch it, and we score with it every day in practice. It's just the mentality around here. That's how he was from Day One when he got here.

"(Defensive coordinator) Rod (Marinelli) was the same way when he got here, and that's how we think about it. We always think about getting the football out. We don't always get it out, but we think about it all the time."

Even at home, according to linebacker Lance Briggs.

"Since Lovie has been here, he's always preached this stuff, and it's ingrained," Briggs said. "I teach my kids how to recover fumbles and stuff like that every time they drop a bottle or a sippy cup. It's getting ridiculous."

Different direction:

Although Jonathan Scott wasn't acquired until Sept 10th -- 11 days after he was cut by the Lions -- the Bears consider him a better backup offensive tackle than recently released Chris Williams, their 2008 first-round pick.

"Chris is a great guy. We had a great talk after we released him," offensive coordinator Mike Tice said. "He's had some bad injury breaks. We tried to move him inside (to guard) a little bit and just as things were going last year he got dinged up a little bit.

"The organization felt that it would be good for him to maybe get a fresh start, and we have some young guys we like."

Williams suffered a dislocated wrist after starting the first nine games at left guard.

The 6-foot-6, 318-pound Scott, 29, has started 28 games in the NFL.

"Jonathan's been a starter in this league, although a backup starter," Tice said. "But Chris is a great guy. He did everything we asked him to do. I wish him the best of luck, and he knows that."

Good (after the) break:

Under Lovie Smith, the Bears are 5-3 in games immediately following their bye week.

They lost in each of his first two seasons (2004 and '05) but are 5-1 since, defeating San Francisco 41-10 in 2006, Oakland 17-6 in 2007, Detroit 27-23 in 2008, Buffalo 22-19 in 2010 and Philadelphia 30-24 last year.

Their only loss in the past six years was 21-14 to the Falcons in 2009. Following their 2010 bye, the Bears won five straight and seven of eight. They won three in a row last year after their break, but then lost five straight.

Health report:

Not practicing Friday were wide receivers Earl Bennett (ill) and Alshon Jeffery (hand), defensive end Julius Peppers (foot, coach's decision) and linebacker Brian Urlacher (knee, coach's decision). Jeffery is out for Monday, but everyone else is expected to play.

Wide receiver Devin Hester (quad), linebacker Blake Costanzo (thumb) and cornerback Sherrick McManis (hip) were all limited but are expected to play. Punter Adam Podlesh was back at practice a day after the birth of his daughter.

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