Déjà vu defense: Tillman, Briggs make NFL history
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The way the Bears’ defense is playing, it’s counterpart on offense may not have to worry about scoring many points.
For the second time in as many weeks, the defense came through with a pair of interception returns for touchdowns. That helped spark a second-half rally that resulted in a 41-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at EverBank Field.
It was a historic day for the Bears’ Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs. They became the first teammates in NFL history to score touchdowns on interceptions in back-to-back games.
Tillman’s score was the spark that seemed to light a fire under the Bears’ offense. It came with just more than five minutes left in the third quarter and the Bears holding a precarious 6-3 advantage. That enabled the Bears to take a 10-point advantage into the fourth quarter, a lead that quickly expanded when the Bears scored four times, including a 36-yard return by Briggs to the end zone.
Tillman called this week’s touchdown off an interception easier than Monday night’s 25-yard return for a score against the Dallas Cowboys.
“This one was an easier catch. Last week, it was, ‘Is he really throwing me the ball?’ This week was normal,” Tillman said. “This one was easier. It came at a good time. We needed a lift and that score got us rolling. The offense started putting up points after that. It was a great team win from both the offensive and defensive units.”
While Tillman and Briggs got credit for the scores, it was the defensive pressure put on by the Bears’ D-line that caused Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert to miss his target on both occasions.
“It’s a combination of everything. It’s the system, ultimately,” defensive end Israel Idonije said. “Our system is built on forcing the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly and then the guys in the back seven breaking on the ball and making plays.
“You’ve seen that with consistency. They get after it. They’ve got great ball skills in that back seven and after they catch the ball, they’re a threat.”
This marked the third straight game in which the Bears’ defense scored a touchdown. Safety Major Wright started the defensive scoring parade two weeks ago when he took a St. Louis pass from Sam Bradford 45 yards to the end zone.
Tillman’s score enabled him to become the franchise’s all-time scoring leader on defense. He has eight returns to end zone, seven on interceptions and one on a fumble return. The 10-year veteran earned praise from Bears coach Lovie Smith.
“[Tillman] does everything you want a cornerback to do,” Smith said. “He has great size, plays hard, has good hands, tackles and has an uncanny knack for taking the football away.
“We’re biased, but we like having him on our football team.”
Smith lauded the entire defensive unit, which has recorded nine interceptions in its past three games, five of which have ended in the end zone.
“I know they know how important it is to take the ball away,” Smith said. “There is an emphasis on it. And after a while, you see one guy doing it, you want to join in on that action. It’s discouraging to the offense. We normally win when we score one time, and it’s probably safe to say we haven’t lost when we score a couple times on the defensive side.”