Urlacher: This year's D stacks up with 2006

CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said Tuesday he believes this year’s defense is in ways superior to the Bears’ 2006 Super Bowl defense.

“That’s a long time ago,” Urlacher said at a public appearance at Niketown Chicago. “I know we had a lot of takeaways back then as well. I’m not sure we got after the quarterback as we do now. We have a lot of guys front up who are getting after the quarterback. I don’t think we scored as much on defense back then as we do right now.”

The Bears currently lead the NFL with 17 takeaways, are tied for the lead with 18 sacks, have allowed an average of 14.2 points a game and are the first team in league history to return five interceptions for touchdowns in the first five games of the season.

On Sunday, the Bears scored two defensive touchdowns, recorded three sacks, intercepted three passes and recovered one fumble in their 41-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Their defensive performance came one week after they scored two defensive touchdowns and intercepted five passes in a 34-18 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

In 2006, the Bears led the NFL with 44 takeaways and 24 interceptions, were second with 20 recovered fumbles, tied for eighth with 40 sacks, allowed an average of 15.9 points per game and scored three defensive touchdowns. In the playoffs, they recovered five fumbles, intercepted three passes and had seven sacks.

Urlacher said this year’s defense has put itself in a different category than the past groups because of its big-play ability.

“The big plays are really separating us apart on defenses I’ve been on before,” Urlacher said. “The touchdowns, the picks, the sacks, that’s the big thing. We’ll give up yards. That’s not a big deal to us. We want the takeaways and sacks, and we’re getting them, and the touchdowns as well.”

Bears coach Lovie Smith said as good as his team’s defense has been he would like to see more forced fumbles.

The Bears are tied for eighth with five forced fumbles and have recovered four of them. They forced 14 fumbles last season, 23 in 2010, 23 in 2009, eight in 2008, 24 in 2007, 32 in 2006, 26 in 2005 and 21 in 2004 with Smith as coach.

“We really haven’t (forced a lot of fumbles,)” Urlacher said. “We work on it every day in practice. We have a lot of picks obviously, but we need to get more fumbles and recover them. I think we’ve left a few out there that we haven’t recovered. We practice every day in practice, but haven’t got a bunch in games.”

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who was also at the event, didn’t have a bad word to say about the team’s defense. The offense has scored 12 touchdowns and the defense has five this season.

“Those guys are unbelievable,” Cutler said. “From top to bottom, they’re playing complete games. Third down, red zone, keeping guys backed up. They’re making it easy on us. They’re giving us good field position. They’re scoring as many points as we do, so it’s fun to watch.”