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Sweat: Bears defense hungry, driven to be great

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Despite generating a league-high 14 takeaways in their last four games and 15 sacks in their last five contests, the Bears are far from satisfied.

"I see a hungry group of guys that want to live up to the challenge every week and they want to be great," said defensive end Montez Sweat. "We play for the man beside each other and I feel that really shows on the field."

Sweat has helped spark a defensive resurgence. Since he arrived Oct. 31 via a trade with the Commanders, he has registered 6.0 sacks in six games, increasing his season total to a career-high 12.5 sacks.

Feeding off each other, Sweat's teammates have also excelled. Since he joined the Bears, nine players have recorded a sack and seven individuals have intercepted passes, led by Tremaine Edmunds with three; T.J. Edwards, Jaylon Johnson and Tyrique Stevenson with two apiece; and Jaquan Brisker, Kyler Gordon and Eddie Jackson with one each. 

"We hold each other to a high standard," Sweat said. "If I make a play, I'm going to look somebody else in the eyes and see if he's ready to match my energy, and other guys would do the same. I think that goes across the board. It's just being held to a high standard, not just [by] the coaches, but your peers."

Rising star

Cornerbacks coach/passing game coordinator Jon Hoke is pleased with how well Jaylon Johnson has performed this season.

The fourth-year pro is tied for the team lead with Edmunds with four interceptions and with Stevenson with 10 pass breakups.

"He's having a really good year," Hoke said. "I'm so happy for him because this is a very demanding game. It's a hard game to play. I have been very fortunate in my career to have been around a lot of good players at different spots, here included. I know his mindset now is to keep finishing strong and keep playing really high-level football."

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

Bouncing back

Special teams coordinator Richard Hightower is confident that sixth-year pro Trent Taylor will rebound Sunday against the Cardinals after muffing two punts in swirling winds and steady rain last weekend in Cleveland.

"We have a tremendous amount of confidence in Trent," Hightower said. "He has been phenomenal with that throughout his career. One thing I know about Trent Taylor is he'll bounce back because he'll feel like he's backed into a corner."

This week at Halas Hall, Hightower has seen a fierce determination from the 5-8, 178-pounder to make amends for his two miscues, one of which resulted in a turnover.

"He is a fighter amongst all fighters," Hightower said. "That's how a guy that size can play in this league. I'm looking forward to him playing this week. He's got a look in his eye … like he's a rookie again. He was really upset about that. He still was upset about it this morning in a punt return meeting. I can just see it. It's on his face."

On Wednesday, Taylor practiced catching punts by pressing towels between both arms and his body and holding tennis balls in his hands.

"We just honed in back on the fundamentals," Hightower said. "We worked our towel drill where we make them catch the football with 'basket closed.' That's even more difficult, keeping my elbows tight to my rib cage and I've got two tennis balls in my hands, and I've got to catch the ball, and he caught all of them." 

Beyond kick line

Hightower explained in detail why the Bears decided against attempting a 55-yard field goal into the wind on the final play of the first half in Cleveland.

"In our pre-game process, we work kicks each direction and we always talk about a normal kick line, where we feel comfortable with a high degree of confidence that we're going to make the kick," Hightower said.

"That's one element of it. But there's also another element of it that we call a monster kick line. And that is, end of half, end of game situation, where we say, 'Hey, it's a lower percent chance to make it—maybe 1-out-of-10 percent chance to make it,' and with wind being a factor, we were actually even outside of our monster kick line."

The Bears also determine normal and monster kick lines for opponents after monitoring their kickers in warm-ups.

"We have someone assigned to that kicker, just like most teams in the league," Hightower said. "And we're not only watching their kick line, we're watching their kickoffs as well … If you're not on top of your game, you can go out there and make a mistake and you could put your team in a bad situation."

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