Watching the Bears defense in practice attack the ball and scoop up every incomplete pass as if it's a fumble, it's evident that a huge emphasis is being placed on generating takeaways.
|Cornerback Charles Tillman set a Bears record with the eigth defensive touchdown of his career.|
"The defense getting their takeaways is a big thing around here," said coach Lovie Smith. "It's not a turnover, it's a takeaway. Guys realize for us to play good defense, taking the ball away is a part of a good defensive game for us. You can't wait for them to turn the ball over. You have to go and get it."
The Bears have done just that better than any other NFL team. They lead the league with 17 takeaways this season and 283 since Smith became head coach in 2004. During his tenure, the Bears are 46-9 when winning the turnover battle and 12-31 when losing it.
"Some places put an emphasis on it and really buy into it," Smith said. "I know it's been a mindset of ours. You say, 'what can not necessarily guarantee victory each week, but has a direct impact on whether you win or lose?' It always goes back to the turnover ratio.
"Offensively, you want explosive plays and to do all types of things, but it's about ball security. On the defensive side, you've got to take the ball away. Most times at the end of a game you see guys start yanking at the ball and coaches start really talking about, 'we've got to get the ball back.' How about you start the game like that? You don't have to wait until the end to get those things done."
With three takeaways and one giveaway in Sunday's 41-3 win in Jacksonville, the Bears rank third in the NFL in turnover margin at plus-nine. They've recorded multiple takeaways in all five games this season, while committing only one giveaway in all four of their victories.
"We continue to talk about turnover ratio," Smith said. "We're taking the ball away and we're protecting the ball on the offensive side, and that really led to good things for us [Sunday]."
The Bears defense isn't only taking the ball away; it's carrying it into the end zone. In fueling a three-game winning streak, the unit has scored five touchdowns while allowing only two TDs.
The Bears have returned interceptions for touchdowns in three straight games for the first time in franchise history, and Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs have become the first teammates in NFL history to bring back interceptions for TDs in back-to-back games.
In Sunday's thrashing of the Jaguars, Tillman set a Bears record with the eighth defensive touchdown of his career, while Briggs climbed into third on the all-time list with his sixth. Coincidentally, both of their interception returns covered 36 yards.
Since 2005, the Bears are 18-2 when scoring a defensive touchdown.
"It's a mindset that we have right now, and guys realize that," Smith said. "The object or goal every play is to score, period. It's as simple as that."