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Rookie Tyrique Stevenson emerging as playmaker


Bears rookie Tyrique Stevenson's sensational diving interception last Sunday in Cleveland generated a lot of buzz, with much of it coming—literally—from his cell phone.

The cornerback's mother, Jackie Stevenson, was so ecstatic after watching the play on television that she couldn't wait to congratulate her son.

"After the game, I had like 30 missed calls from her," Stevenson said Wednesday. "She was just yelling in the phone. She was more excited than me."

The excitement was understandable given the degree of difficulty on the play. On first-and-10 from the Bears' 20, it appeared that Browns tight end David Njoku was open on a seam route. But Stevenson broke on Joe Flacco's pass and dove head-long to pick it off at the 1. The rookie then had the wherewithal to scramble to his feet and return it 34 yards.

"That was a great play by Tyrique," said coach Matt Eberflus. "The ability to focus and dive for that and also remind himself that he's in pro football and to get up and go … He did a nice job."

Stevenson's interception was clutch because it came one snap after the Browns had recovered Trent Taylor's muffed punt.

"We talk about sudden change in the game," Eberflus said. "I gathered all the guys right before they went out and reminded them, 'Hey, this is sudden change. What do we do in sudden change? Well, we're going to go three-and-out and we're going to block the kick, or we're going to get a takeaway. That's our mindset.' Sure enough, he made a great play."

Fellow cornerback Jaylon Johnson also was impressed with Stevenson's interception.

"For one, just him reading and reacting on it and going to get the ball," Johnson said. "I feel like he made a good diving catch. [It was] just an athletic, amazing play, especially the situation [after] dropping the punt and then them coming out the next play and us getting that stop."

Stevenson sees the interception as evidence of his continued growth. The second-round pick from Miami has started all 13 games he's played, registering two interceptions, 10 pass breakups, 71 tackles and one forced fumble.

"I know I'm a rookie, so I know I was going to go through a lot of ups and downs," Stevenson said. "Just being able to showcase my talent is pretty much good, just knowing that I'm putting in the hard work and it's paying off."

Stevenson has dealt with the ups and downs as a rookie by remaining even-keeled and allowing himself to get "embraced by the guys in this locker room to be the best version of myself."

"He's just continuing to fight," Johnson said. "Continuing to stay in it. I feel like a lot of the time, especially at the cornerback position, you don't have success early and you can just kind of go into the tank. I feel like he has continued to fight, continued to grow. And you definitely see his confidence out there on the field. That has continued to shine no matter what is going on in the game. No matter how the game is going, he continues to fight and bounce back."

Entering Week 16, Stevenson no longer feels like a rookie.

"I feel like I've been with these guys for years, just the chemistry that we're building together in this locker room," he said. "When I'm out there on the field, I don't feel like I'm a rookie because the guys hold me to a high standard and I'm out there playing to the standards."

With two interceptions and five pass breakups in his last three games, Stevenson is excelling because the game has slowed down for him.

"I'm starting to go back to them and tell [teammates] tendencies I see because I'm watching so much film," he said. "Just being out there on the field, it's definitely slowed down for me. I can be able to see the field at a slower pace and be able to make plays that come to me."

The Bears were back on the practice fields at Halas Hall to continue their preparation for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals.