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Defense thrives with unselfish mentality

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 8, 2012 – 4:30 pm

Spend any quality time with Bears defensive players or coaches and the same statement invariably always comes up: “The star of the defense is the defense.”

The mantra doesn’t mean that the unit is devoid of stars; Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher have been voted to a combined 22 Pro Bowls. It’s more of a way to describe an unselfish group of players who have been teammates in some cases for a decade and don’t care who receives the credit as long as the defense excels as a unit.

“We know if we’re going to be good we all have to do our jobs,” said Urlacher, a 13-year veteran. “This defense doesn’t work unless everyone does their one-eleventh. We know that. We understand that. And if you do your job you’re going to make plays most of the time.

“We’ve seen that this season with all different guys making plays. Everybody has to do their job or we’re not going to be successful. I don’t know how it is anywhere else, but I know how it is here and we like it this way. And it may have something to do with us being together for so long and being close that we don’t really care who makes the plays.”

Making history this season has been a group effort for the Bears defense. Briggs, Urlacher, Tim Jennings, Charles Tillman and Major Wright all have returned interceptions for touchdowns; while 11 different players have recorded a pick, forced fumble or fumble recovery.

“We have a lot of stars, but they’re not really into individual things,” said coach Lovie Smith. “You know you have something special when guys aren’t really worried about what they’re getting and they’re excited about what their teammate is doing.

“Charles Tillman hasn’t talked about what he’s doing an awful lot because of everyone else. When the guys found out that Brian Urlacher was NFC defensive player of the week, nobody was more excited for Brian than the defense. That’s just kind of how it is around here.”

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Jeffery remains sidelined with injury

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 8, 2012 – 4:03 pm

Rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery missed practice again Thursday with a hand injury that has forced him to sit out the last three games.

“Alshon Jeffery’s getting better,” said coach Lovie Smith. “He’s not quite there yet.”

Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (coach’s decision) and defensive tackle Matt Toeaina (calf) also did not practice in advance of Sunday night’s home game against the Texans. Defensive end Israel Idonije (ankle) and defensive tackle Henry Melton (back) worked out without restrictions.

For the Texans, nose tackle Shaun Cody (ribs), tight end Owen Daniels (back) and running back Ben Tate (hamstring) did not practice, while fullback James Casey (illness), cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph (quadricep) and Brice McCain (knee), defensive end Antonio Smith (ankle) and receiver Kevin Walter (groin) were limited.

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Recognition for Tillman well deserved

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 8, 2012 – 2:15 pm

While wondering why it has taken so long, Bears linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are happy that teammate Charles Tillman is finally getting the recognition he deserves.

A year after being voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career, Tillman was named NFC defensive player of the month for October after winning two weekly awards and was praised by President Barack Obama during a nationally-televised interview the night before the election.

“Charles Tillman has been an integral part of our defense since he’s gotten here in 2003,” Briggs said. “He’s getting a lot of attention now. He should have been getting it for the past 10 years. He’s played at a high level. He’s an elite player and has always played at a high level. Now in Year 10 he’s taken it up to another level. He’s a defensive player of the year type player.”

In October, Tillman returned interceptions for touchdowns in back-to-back road wins in Dallas and Jacksonville, setting the Bears’ all-time record with eight defensive TDs. He also held Lions Pro Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson to three receptions for a season-low 34 yards.

Tillman then forced a career-high four fumbles in last Sunday’s 51-20 rout of the Titans, increasing his season total to seven and giving him 36 forced fumbles in his career, the most among NFL defensive backs since he entered the league in 2003.

Urlacher doesn’t know why Tillman didn’t receive the credit he deserves until the past two seasons.

“Peanut should be getting a ton of recognition,” Urlacher said. “He’s played great the last four or five years. Look at his stats. He’s caused [36] fumbles, has [32] picks. It didn’t happen in the last two years. He’s played 10 years. He’s had those picks and all those big plays his whole career. It’s not just the one year he’s done it. I’m glad he’s getting it now because he deserves it.”

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Defense getting taste of humble pie

Posted by Larry Mayer on November 8, 2012 – 1:05 pm

The Bears have become the first team in NFL history to return seven interceptions for touchdowns in the first eight games of a season. They also lead the league with 28 takeaways thanks to a defense that ranks No. 1 in the Aikman Ratings, which combines seven statistical categories.

With all that success, you might think it’d be tough to keep players from becoming too full of themselves. But that’s actually not the case, according to one Bears star.

“It’s not hard,” said middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. “If you were in our meetings and heard our coaches, you wouldn’t think it was hard at all because we’re not that good. We do a lot of good things, but we do a lot of things wrong as well.

“We always try to correct our mistakes, but I really don’t see us getting too big-headed and getting ahead of ourselves because we have eight more games left in the regular season. We don’t want to fall off at the end of the season. We’d like to go on a high note if we do go to the playoffs.”

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli plays a key role in ensuring the defense stays hungry.

“It can get a little old doing the same thing every day, but he challenges us every single day,” Urlacher said. “He doesn’t let us relax. He tells us what we need to do, what we need to get better at and just doesn’t let us relax.

“He’ll make you run through that wall right there if you talk to him. He makes you think you can do stuff you can’t do. It’s fun playing for him. Every day he elevates us and challenges us to make more plays.”

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