The Chicago Bears are 4-1 and tied for the NFC North lead. A big reason for Chicago's early success has been the play of the team's defense.
"This 4-1 start has been spearheaded by the Bears' defense," says NFL Network analyst TOM WADDLE.
The Bears lead the NFL with five interception-return touchdowns and are the first team in NFL history to return five interceptions for touchdowns through the first five games of a season.
"The Bears are the best team in the NFC North," says NFL Network analyst ERIC DAVIS. "Defensively, they can compete with anyone in that division. They're playing well. They have playmakers and they're stepping up and making plays on the defensive side of the ball. They're the best team in that division."
Chicago has five interception-return touchdowns in the past three games and the Bears joined the 1960 Cleveland Browns as the only teams in league history to record five INT-TDs over any three-game span.
The Bears' five interception-return touchdowns this season:
|Date||Player||Opponent||Quarter / Time||Yards|
|9/23/12||Major Wright||St. Louis||4th Quarter, 9:06||45|
|10/1/12||Charles Tillman||Dallas||2nd Quarter, 2:38||25|
|10/1/12||Lance Briggs||Dallas||3rd Quarter, 6:11||74|
|10/7/12||Charles Tillman||Jacksonville||3rd Quarter, 5:04||36|
|10/7/12||Lance Briggs||Jacksonville||4th Quarter, 7:54||36|
"The defense knows how important it is to take the ball away," says Chicago head coach LOVIE SMITH. "After a while, you see one guy doing it and you want to join in on that action. The players know how important that is. It's discouraging for the offense too when you can take it away and get in the end zone too."
For the first time in the franchise's 93 seasons, the Bears have scored at least one touchdown off an interception-return in three consecutive games.
"The guys are playing well and there's no other way to put it," says Bears seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end JULIUS PEPPERS. "It's exciting to see guys contributing and it's a great time right now because it's not one person. It's been different guys every week and that's just how we play the game. We want to continue to ride this wave."
Cornerback CHARLES TILLMAN and linebacker LANCE BRIGGS each had an interception-return touchdown in the team's Week 4 win at Dallas and the club's Week 5 victory at Jacksonville. Tillman and Briggs are the first set of teammates in NFL history to each return an interception for a touchdown in consecutive games.
"I've never seen anything like it," says Bears eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker BRIAN URLACHER. "Two straight weeks and the same guys have pick-sixes. It's fun to be part of it and watch these guys do it."
Tillman, who was selected to his first Pro Bowl last year, is the franchise leader with seven career interception-return touchdowns. Briggs, who has been named to seven consecutive Pro Bowls, has five career INT-TDs, the second-most in club annals.
"Those were big," says Chicago quarterback JAY CUTLER about the interception-return touchdowns. "For ‘Peanut' (Tillman) to turn around and make another heck of a play in back-to-back weeks speaks a lot for the way this defense is playing. They're playing extremely well."
Since 2005, the Bears are 14-1 (.933) under Smith when returning an interception for a touchdown. During that time, Chicago ranks third in the NFL with 18 interception-return touchdowns behind Green Bay (23) and Baltimore (20).
"We know we win when we score on defense," says Smith.
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