Fittest loser
Article updated: 10/28/2012 7:18 PM

Bears CB Tim Jennings comes up BIG with his picks

Jennings picks off 2 passes, including pick-6 that helped put away pesky Panthers

Bears cornerback Tim Jennings (26) is swarmed by teammates after his fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown Sunday at Soldier Field. Jennings’ play gave the Bears a 20-19 lead with 6:44 left in the game.

Bears cornerback Tim Jennings (26) is swarmed by teammates after his fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown Sunday at Soldier Field. Jennings' play gave the Bears a 20-19 lead with 6:44 left in the game.

 

Rick West | Staff Photographer

Tim Jennings runs an interception back for a touchdown to give the Bears a 20-19 late in the fourth quarter of his teamís victory Sunday at Soldier Field.

Tim Jennings runs an interception back for a touchdown to give the Bears a 20-19 late in the fourth quarter of his team's victory Sunday at Soldier Field.

 

JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

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A sick season for No. 26, who's much shorter than 6 feet, just had to include a pick-6.

It happened to be Tim Jennings' sixth interception, of course.

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And his first NFL touchdown couldn't have come at a much better time.

"He's my hero," Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said with a smile of his tiny-but-tough teammate.

Leave it to the big, tough defense to rally the Bears to a 23-22 win over a visiting Carolina team that for three quarters Sunday at Soldier Field looked like a 5-1 squad playing a 1-5 squad, instead of the other way around.

Leave it to Jennings to come up with the game-changing play: a 25-yard interception return for touchdown with 6:44 left in the fourth quarter that gave the Bears a 20-19 lead.

It came eight seconds after Jay Cutler's 12-yard TD pass to Kellen Davis cut into Carolina's 19-7 lead.

Jennings' interception -- his second of the game and sixth in what has been a Pro Bowl-caliber season for the seventh-year pro -- came when Carolina quarterback Cam Newton attempted a short pass on first-and-10 from the Panthers' 20-yard line. Wide receiver Steve Smith slipped while running his route and the pass came directly to a stationary Jennings.

Much like Tillman's pick-6 against QB Tony Romo at Dallas in Week 4 -- which also covered 25 yards -- Jennings' interception return looked easy, but wasn't.

"When you feel like it's coming right to you, those are the toughest ones to catch," said Jennings, whose diving interception late in the first half wasn't as easy. "But I was able to get my hands on the ball, capitalize on the play and score from there."

Jennings had 7 career interceptions coming into this season. He leads the league this season.

"It feels great," Jennings said. "I just got stay focused. I know it's a long season, and I got to continue to play at a high level just because we got a great opportunity right now."

Jennings -- and not Tillman -- covered the dangerous Smith all day in a battle of physical players who are considered small for their positions but quick. Bears coach Lovie Smith liked the size matchup, as Jennings (5-feet-8, 185) and Smith (5-9, 185) have nearly identical body types.

Smith finished with 7 receptions for 118 yards, 47 coming on a perfectly thrown ball from Newton with Jennings draped all over Smith, who leapt to make a sideline grab.

"If he's in position and the quarterback has the opportunity to get him the ball, he's going to make those plays," Jennings said. "It's not a surprise at all. You just got to lock in and minimize them."

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