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updated: 11/5/2012 4:56 PM

Urlacher marvels at opportunistic defense

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  • Over his 13 season, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher says he hasn't seen a defense excel at takeaways like the current Bears unit.

      Over his 13 season, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher says he hasn't seen a defense excel at takeaways like the current Bears unit.
    Associated Press

  • Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is looking stronger these days. He had enough speed to return an interception for a 46-yard touchdown against the Tennessee Titans, and he had no problem chasing down speedy running back Chris Johnson.

      Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is looking stronger these days. He had enough speed to return an interception for a 46-yard touchdown against the Tennessee Titans, and he had no problem chasing down speedy running back Chris Johnson.
    Associated Press

 
 

Thirteen-year NFL veteran Brian Urlacher says he has never experienced anything like what's going on with this year's group of opportunistic takeaway artists on the Bears' defense.

And no one, not even coach Lovie Smith, has been as intimately involved with Bears defensive play for as long as the eight-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker.

"The takeaways and the big plays; I've never been around anything like this, in high school, college, any level," the 34-year-old Urlacher said after Sunday's rout of Tennessee. "It seems like every week someone else is doing it."

Sunday it was Urlacher doing it. His 46-yard interception return was the team's franchise-record seventh for a touchdown this season. The league record for interception-return touchdowns is 9 by the 1961 San Diego Chargers.

Contrary to some opinions, Urlacher said he did not feel like an outsider the first seven games this season, as defensive teammates took turns basking in the spotlight while he battled back from preseason knee surgery.

"I never felt left out at all," he said. "Every time we win I'm part of it."

Against the Titans, Urlacher was a bigger part of the proceedings than ever before this season. In addition to the pick-6, which gave the Bears a 21-2 lead, he forced 1 fumble and recovered another.

His best game of the season?

"If you're going by big plays," he said, "for sure."

As the face of the franchise for more than a decade, the defensive signalcaller and a leader in the locker-room and on the field, Urlacher had a lot of cheerleaders after the game.

"It's great to see Brian Urlacher get back in the end zone," coach Lovie Smith said after Urlacher's fifth NFL score and first since a 12-yard fumble return against the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 11, 2011. "We've been waiting for Brian to really step up like that. Outstanding job by him."

Urlacher also had 7 tackles, according to team statistics, which would give him the team lead for the season. He recovered the fumble that Charles Tillman forced on the day's first play from scrimmage, and he forced a second-quarter fumble that nickel corner Kelvin Hayden recovered.

But it was the TD that had everyone talking.

"Everybody was happy to see that because of everything that he does for the team and who he is for this franchise," defensive end Julius Peppers said. "To see him go out and make big plays like that just lifts the spirits up of everybody on the sidelines."

Although he had been involved in just 1 turnover before Sunday, a fumble recovery against the Lions in Week Seven, Urlacher's big takeaway day didn't surprise his teammates.

"He does it in practice all the time," Peppers said. "It was bound to happen in a game sooner or later."

Urlacher became the Bears' fifth defensive player to score a touchdown this season. Five players have at least 2 interceptions, seven players have forced fumbles and five players have recovered fumbles.

"We all want to be part of it," Urlacher said. "The d-linemen say the same thing. As long as we keep winning, I don't think anyone cares how they come."

What matters is that they're coming in bunches. The Bears lead the NFL with 28 takeaways.

"The defense was a frenzy out there taking the ball away," Smith said after the 5 takeaways. "That's what we are. That's what the guys believe they can do every play. That's the mindset."

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