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Coaches keep Bears grounded

Caption
Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (center) celebrates with Julius Peppers (left) and Tim Jennings after Urlacher returned an interception for a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Joe Howell)

LAKE FOREST – Plenty of difficulties await the Bears’ defense this weekend.

Arian Foster. Andre Johnson. Matt Schaub. Owen Daniels. J.J. Watt. Johnathan Joseph.

Basically, name a Houston Texans starter, and that player poses a threat.

But it won’t be nearly as challenging for the Bears’ defense to guard against overconfidence. Because no matter how many fumbles Charles Tillman causes or how many hits Lance Briggs delivers, the Bears’ coaches will not allow their players to bask in their achievements.

“It’s not hard,” Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said with a smile Thursday before a two-hour practice on the outdoor fields at Halas Hall. “If you were in our meetings and hear our coaches, you wouldn’t think it was hard at all. Because we’re not that good.

“We do a lot of good things. We do a lot of things wrong, as well.”

If you say so.

The not-that-good Bears’ defense has notched 28 takeaways and scored seven touchdowns, both of which lead the NFL entering Week 10. The lot-of-things-wrong group has registered 25 sacks while limiting opponents to 15 points per game, which is the second-best mark in the NFL.

With all of that said, isn’t it tough for coaches to nitpick?

“Oh, no,” said Rod Marinelli, the Bears’ defensive coordinator.

Why not?

“That’s our job,” Marinelli said. “We owe that to these men.

“I know what they want to be, I know how special they want to be and how good they can be, and it’s the coach’s job to stay on every detail and just tell them to truth and bring it to their attention as men: ‘That’s not good enough.’ And they’ll get it corrected.”

While TV highlights show Bears players sacking quarterbacks and returning interceptions for touchdowns, Marinelli and the rest of the Bears’ coaching staff also zoom in on mistakes. A missed tackle one week could allow for a game-changing touchdown the next week. A bad angle taken by a defender one week could lead to a wide-open receiver the next week.

Bears nickelback Kelvin Hayden said he was grateful for the coaching staff’s insistence on improvements no matter how much success the defense enjoyed. He said coach Lovie Smith kept players grounded much like Hayden's former coach Tony Dungy, who led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl championship six seasons ago with Hayden as a starting defensive back.

“As a veteran defense, you wouldn’t expect anything else,” Hayden said of his coaches’ demanding style. “You could say we’re a defense that’s never satisfied. We have one goal in mind, and we’re going to keep fighting toward that every day.”

With every step the Bears take toward that goal, media attention will increase. Dozens of reporters have packed the media room at Halas Hall this week, including reporters from Spanish-speaking radio stations as well as others from national TV networks and magazines.

The bright spotlight was fine, Urlacher said. But it wouldn’t change the Bears’ mindset.

“I don’t really see us getting big-headed and too far ahead of ourselves,” Urlacher said. “We have eight more games left in the regular season. We don’t want to fall off at the end of the season. We’d like to go out on a high note if we do go to the playoffs.”

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