CHICAGO – Cornerback Charles Tillman and middle linebacker Brian Urlacher combined to play less than three quarters Sunday and the Bears’ defense survived just fine.
The Bears forced five turnovers against Indianapolis on their way to a 41-21 victory at Soldier Field, picking off rookie quarterback Andrew Luck three times and forcing a fumble on a sack once.
It could be a different story against another No. 12 this week. The Bears definitely need their best players against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Thursday when they visit Lambeau Field, but it looks like neither Urlacher nor Tillman will be at full speed for that game.
Tillman left with a leg injury early in the first quarter, returned briefly, then sat out the rest of the game. He was not in the locker room after the game to comment.
Urlacher, who had surgery on his left knee last month, played, but did not appear to have his usual burst. With the Bears in control in the second half, coach Lovie Smith held Urlacher out the rest of the game.
“I felt good. I had no issues moving around,” Urlacher said. “No pain, nothing like that. Stupid brace was there, but that was about it.”
The defense forced turnovers and held the Colts to 63 rushing yards. Cornerback Tim Jennings picked off two Luck passes and tipped another that safety Chris Conte intercepted in the end zone. Indianapolis finished with 356 total yards.
Jennings spoke with Tillman after the game.
“He said he’s going to be fine,” Jennings said. “He’s going to get some treatment on it. It’s nothing serious that we have to worry about. We’re just going to rest it and take as much time as he needs. Come Wednesday, if he can’t go, that might be a problem.”
Kelvin Hayden, a former Colt who signed with the Bears this offseason, took over Tillman’s spot and was solid.
“That’s what we did in the offseason, with the new general manager [Phil Emery],” Jennings said. “He brought in a lot of depth at a lot of positions. We felt good about that when we brought [Hayden] in.”
Hayden was in on seven tackles and credited with one pass defended when he leveled Colts wide receiver Donnie Avery. Avery later scored on a 4-yard slant against Hayden.
“I have some things to clean up, like everyone else does,” said Hayden, in his eighth NFL season. “There are little things. The more I’m out there, the better I’ll be. Anytime your number’s called, you want to be ready, whether it’s your first year or 10 years in. You have to take advantage of that opportunity.”
It looks like Hayden will have more opportunities in his first participation of the NFL’s oldest rivalry, against the NFL’s MVP of last season with a short week to prepare.
“It’s nothing new to me,” Hayden said. “We have an experienced, veteran group that’s ready to respond to the challenge. We’ll go out there, play our game, be into details and try to make things happen on the defensive side of the ball, the way the offense is going to do the same thing.”