CHICAGO -- Putting points on the boards with defense typically tacks wins onto the Chicago Bears' record.
The Bears proved that once again Sunday by scoring 24 points off turnovers, including a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns by Major Wright and Charles Tillman to spearhead a resounding 37-13 win over the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.
“It was about the defense tonight,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “We preach and practice taking the ball away a lot. It’s good for it to show up.”
Since 2005, the Bears own a .933 winning percentage (14-1) when they score a touchdown on defense, and the last time the team scored on two interception returns was Dec. 5, 1993 against the Green Bay Packers.
The fumble recoveries played a role in 10-point lead for the Bears in the first quarter on Matt Forte’s 6-yard run and Robbie Gould’s 43-yard field goal.
“I don’t think we’ll lose too many games playing like that on defense,” Urlacher said. “That’s as dominant as I’ve been around. They had yards – whatever -- they were late in the game. But we got takeaways when we needed to and scored with them.”
Coming into the contest, Lions receiver Calvin Johnson had put together four consecutive 100-yard receiving games. But with Tillman covering him the majority of the afternoon, Johnson caught seven passes -- despite being targeted 19 times -- for 81 yards and was stripped by Peppers in the first quarter, resulting in Urlacher’s recovery.
The strip marked the 32nd of Peppers’ career, and interestingly, the Lions came into Sunday’s game having turned over the ball just five times through the first eight games.
“I think they were the best in the league as far as protecting the ball,” Smith said. “You’ll go through some spells, [and for] whatever reason, you don’t get [turnovers]. A lot of times, they do come in bunches. They came in bunches tonight.”
On Tillman’s interception return for a touchdown on a pass intended for Johnson, the Bears were in man-to-man coverage, according to Urlacher.
Tillman’s interception return marked the fourth of his career, tying him with Mike Brown and Bennie McRae for the most in franchise history.
Wright, meanwhile, had just made his first career interception six days earlier in Chicago’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles, and picked off Stafford in the third quarter Sunday, returning the INT 24 yards for a TD. Wright laughed recalling the end zone celebration after the play. Wright performed the “Elroy” dance, which he said, “is a Charlotte, [NC], dance; something I just learned” as the celebration.
Wright attributed the interceptions to pressure generated by the front four, which sacked Stafford twice.
“At any time, any one of them could make a play,” Wright said. “That’s what they’ve been doing, getting great rushes and buying us time to go make plays on the ball. I just read the quarterback. We were in Cover 3. I came down, broke on the ball and just made the play.”
Rookie Chris Conte expressed disappointment he couldn’t actually gobble up a fumble or an interception, saying he “had like three opportunities” to come away with turnovers, but was proud to see his teammates succeed.
In all, the Bears forced six turnovers. The last time they forced that many giveaways was Sept. 17, 1995 at Tampa Bay (7 turnovers).
“It seemed like [Stafford] was throwing the ball to us a lot more than his guys,” Conte said. “Two pick sixes, that’s huge. I’m really proud of all the guys that stepped up and played well.”