LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — How's this for an oddity? Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs have more touchdown catches than Calvin Johnson and as many as Larry Fitzgerald and Reggie Wayne.
Well, sort of.
Tillman and Briggs actually have two interception returns for touchdowns, and the Chicago Bears' defense has been racking up points at a rate that would make any high-powered offense envious.
"I just know that we need to keep it going. Guys realize ... taking the ball away is a part of a good defensive game for us," coach Lovie Smith said Monday. "We can't wait for them to turn the ball over. We have to go and get it. I think the last couple weeks or so, I think defensively we have scored about as many as the defense has given up. I think it's just a mindset. We have guys that have been around here a long time."
Takeaways have been a hallmark for the Bears (4-1) and a major point of emphasis since Smith took over before the 2004 season, and they lead the NFL with 13 interceptions. That's something Smith will certainly take, although he'd like to see a few more fumble recoveries, too. The Bears have just four this season.
"Interceptions, when a ball's thrown your way, you're supposed to catch it," Smith said. "But taking the ball away, once we really get good we'll start yanking the ball out and you'll see a lot more caused fumbles and fumble recoveries from it."
When it comes to interceptions, the Bears are doing just fine, though.
The defense has five touchdowns this season — all on interceptions in the past three weeks — and has allowed just five TDs by opposing offenses. Tillman and Briggs made history in Sunday's 41-3 blowout at Jacksonville, becoming the first teammates to each return interceptions for TDs in consecutive weeks.
Throw in Major Wright's 45-yard interception return for a score against Sam Bradford in a win over St. Louis last month and the Bears have run back picks in three straight games for the first time in franchise history.
"We play hard and we try to force the issue and when you play the game the right way good things happen to you," defensive end Julius Peppers said.
Good things certainly have been happening for a defense that has allowed just two touchdowns during this three-game win streak, and the Jacksonville game was just the latest example. The offense got going in the second half, and the defense did its part as Chicago reeled off 38 unanswered points on the way to its third straight win.