Ed Donatell isn't surprised that the Bears defense has generated eight takeaways in the last three games after mustering only two in the first five contests of the season.
"We were really close in some early games," said the veteran defensive backs coach. "It isn't like it just started. We hadn't made it happen. It's like cracking a rock. It's finally starting to crack and the guys are getting excited. It builds energy and it can help your team win."
That was certainly the case earlier this month when the Bears produced six takeaways and returned three of them for touchdowns in back-to-back victories over the Ravens and Panthers.
Rookie safety Eddie Jackson accounted for two of the scores, returning a fumble 75 yards and an interception 76 yards in a 17-3 win over Carolina Oct. 22 at Soldier Field. In the process he became the first NFL player to score two defensive TDs on returns of at least 75 yards in a game.
Bears safety Adrian Amos holds the football after recovering a fumble against the Saints.
Jackson showed the same ball skills and knack for finding the end zone in his final two seasons at Alabama, scoring three touchdowns on interception returns of 50, 93 and 55 yards and two TDs on punt returns of 85 and 79 yards.
"We knew it was coming," Donatell said of Jackson's big plays. "It was happening in practice. It was a great job by our scouting and personnel department. Everything looks like this guy's going to keep playing real good football for us."
Jackson's partner at safety has also played a major role in the Bears increasing their takeaways. In a 27-24 overtime win Oct. 15 in Baltimore, third-year pro Adrian Amos brought back his first NFL interception 90 yards for his first career touchdown.
"I really liked seeing that," Donatell said. "It was a heck of a return. We practice it. We talk about it. We show examples of it. And he certainly carried it out."
Amos forced another key takeaway in Sunday's loss to the Saints. With the Bears trailing 17-12 late in the fourth quarter, the Penn State product ripped the ball away from running back Mark Ingram, scooped it up and returned it four yards to the Chicago 30. The turnover came two plays after the Bears had allowed Drew Brees to complete a 53-yard pass to Ted Ginn Jr.
"That's awareness," Donatell said. "We know when we get in a four-minute drill, the advantage goes to that team. He knew that after we gave up a pass we had to clean it up, so he pulled it out."
After starting 30 of 32 games in his first two seasons with the Bears, Amos opened the 2017 campaign as a second-stringer. But he returned to the starting lineup Sept. 28 following an injury to veteran Quintin Demps and has made the most of his second opportunity.
"I think he's on the proper path," Donatell said. "He came back really focused in camp, working hard. He wasn't starting at first, but he was really in-tune as a backup and when he finally got his shot, I think everybody can see his game is better in all areas."