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updated: 10/20/2012 5:31 PM

Bears' appetite for turnovers never satiated

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  • Tim Jennings smiles as leaves the field after their 23-6 win over the St. Louis Rams. Jennings is tied for the NFL lead with 4 interceptions.

      Tim Jennings smiles as leaves the field after their 23-6 win over the St. Louis Rams. Jennings is tied for the NFL lead with 4 interceptions.
    Associated Press

  • Chris Conte makes an interception in the end zone after the play was broken up by Tim Jennings during the season opener against Indianapolis.

      Chris Conte makes an interception in the end zone after the play was broken up by Tim Jennings during the season opener against Indianapolis.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Bears Tim Jennings runs off the field after his first half interception against the Colts in the season opener at Soldier Field.

      Bears Tim Jennings runs off the field after his first half interception against the Colts in the season opener at Soldier Field.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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

      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

  • Tim Jennings celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Colts.

      Tim Jennings celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Colts.
    Associated Press

 
 

When it comes to takeaways and touchdowns, the Bears' defense can't get enough.

Through the first five games, it's been nothing short of a feeding frenzy. Everyone in the school of sharks is fighting for a piece of the action.

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No two teammates had ever returned interceptions for touchdowns in back-to-back NFL games until Bears cornerback Charles Tillman and linebacker Lance Briggs did it first two weeks in October.

Tim Jennings, the Bears' "other" cornerback, is tied for the league lead with 4 interceptions. Strong safety Major Wright is just 1 pick behind Jennings, and he, too, returned 1 of his interceptions for a touchdown.

The Bears' 5 interception returns for touchdowns in the first five games of a season are unprecedented in NFL history. Their 13 interceptions lead the league and their 17 takeaways are tied for first with the Falcons, who have played one more game.

"They buy into it," coach Lovie Smith said of the philosophy he brought with him in 2004. "It's not a good defensive game unless we're taking the ball away. I think they'll all tell you that."

What they'll also tell you is that they all want in on the action, which is what makes the group so dangerous. It's all about the competition.

"We have a score chart for our defense with a point system," Briggs said. "And everyone wants to get on that board. Everyone wants to lead that board and break records on that board."

But it's not about being selfish. As long as one of their own ends up in the end zone, it's all good.

"As long as a Bear is getting in there I don't care," Briggs said. "When you see other guys scoring, you love it because it's us. It's the Bears scoring, but you want your opportunity and when your opportunity comes you're going to make something happen."

Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher says when the defense scores it energized the entire team.

"It's exciting," Urlacher said. "I don't care who scores; it's fun and it's an emotional thing. It gives us a boost on the sideline. (In) Jacksonville we were dead. We didn't play very well in the first half. We were kind of down.

"But then Peanut (Tillman) scores that touchdown, and everything just started, a snowball affect. The offense and defense started playing better. It doesn't matter who gets in there, we're happy to get in there whoever it is."

Briggs now has 5 interception returns in his 10-year career, just 1 shy of the all-time NFL record for linebackers shared by the Chiefs' Bobby Bell (1963-74) and the Bucs' Derrick Brooks (1995-2008).

A competition has even developed among who has the best hands on the defense.

"I don't know who's got the best hands," Briggs said, "but I'm definitely in the top three."

Urlacher has 21 career interceptions, 6 more than Briggs, but he's played three more years.

"I'm No. 1," Urlacher said, "I just never get around the ball. He said he's No. 3? Which guys did he put in front of him? I put myself in front of him. I'm top three as well. Somewhere in those top three."

With some of the wide receiver-like grabs Jennings has made this year, he has to be in the discussion. Tillman leads all current Bears with 32 interceptions, and he's third in franchise history, trailing only Gary Fencik (38) and Richie Petitbon (37). Tillman has returned a franchise-record 7 of his picks for 6 points.

With everyone contributing and everyone competing for takeaways and touchdowns, the Bears go into Week 7 with a 4-1 record and the No. 1 defense in points allowed per game, rushing yards and average gain per pass allowed.

Getting the ball away and getting to the end zone with it is by design.

"They practice that way," said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who shares the same philosophy about taking the ball away as coach Smith. "They practice that way with high energy, and they enjoy that part of the game, and they know they're good at it."

They'll be looking to get even better Monday night against the Lions.

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