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Jones-Quartey's second chance

Posted Dec 27, 2015

Given a second chance to make a first impression, rookie safety Harold Jones-Quartey celebrated his return to the starting lineup with a key interception and forced fumble in Sunday's 26-21 win over the Buccaneers.

TAMPA - The sting from getting benched following two mid-October starts was still very fresh for Harold Jones-Quartey when he stepped on the field Sunday in Tampa.

Given a second chance to prove himself, the rookie safety produced two key takeaways in helping lead the Bears to a 26-21 win over the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadum.

"I started early in the season," Jones-Quartey said. "Coaches took me out, felt like I wasn't prepared, I wasn't ready. Today was a statement game. Coach told me I was [active]. I told myself I had to make a statement, I had to give it all I had."

Jones-Quartey did just that in the second quarter when he forced Doug Martin, the NFL's second-leading rusher, to fumble after a 6-yard reception. Fellow rookie John Timu recovered at the Chicago 45, setting up a Robbie Gould field goal that gave the Bears a 10-7 lead.

Jones-Quartey made an even more impressive play in the third quarter when Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston threw a jump ball to running back Charles Sims at the Bears' 1. Tampa Bay was looking to extend its 14-13 lead at the time.

The 5-11, 215-pound safety plucked the ball out of the air, won a wrestling match for it with Sims and returned his first NFL interception 23 yards to the Chicago 24.

"I saw [the play] on tape several times," Jones-Quartey said. "I picked it off in practice three times. So when the running back came in, I already knew what he was going to do. I just didn't believe he'd throw it. So he threw it and I made a play."

Jones-Quartey's interception was the first red-zone takeaway this season by the Bears, whio had allowed opponents to score touchdowns on nine straight red-zone possessions.

Jones-Quartey entered the NFL this year as an undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals out of Findlay. Claimed off waivers by the Bears following final cuts, he replaced the injured Antrel Rolle at safety Oct. 4 against the Raiders and then started the next two games in Kansas City and Detroit. But Jones-Quartey was then benched in favor of Chris Prosinski.

The demotion put a rather large chip on the shoulder of Jones-Quartey, who has always felt the need to prove himself.

"It was painful," Jones-Quartey said. "I'm a competitor. I'm from a small school. All that factors in. It just fuels the fire and when I got my shot I just made sure that I prayed about it, I prayed every night and I made sure that I was going to do everything I could."

Bears coach John Fox was impressed with Jones-Quartey's performance Sunday.

"I thought he did great," Fox said. "He had zip. He was fresh. At this point in the season you get worn down a little bit. It's a long season, but he had a great week of preparation. I saw him improve. He got better, just in practice. I was proud of the young man, the way he performed. It was a great pick; he played the ball well. He'll just continue to get better."