Tim Jennings brushes off criticism

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A day after getting criticized by the Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith, Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings responded with praise for the receiver who has proven to be a nemesis.

"That's just Steve Smith being Steve Smith," Jennings said Monday. "He's a great competitor. We really didn't do a whole lot of talking. I was surprised that he didn't do a whole lot of talking during the game. That's just the guy that he is. You can't say too much about it, just the fact that we won and they lost again. Not taking anything away from Steve, he's a great All-Pro receiver. He's a tough guy to defend. I can tell you that because they are going to go to him each and every pass play. They are going to throw to him 15 to 20 times if they get a chance to."

Smith, who has had 34 catches for 568 yards and two touchdowns in three games against Lovie Smith-coached Bears teams, had another big day with seven receptions for 118 yards in Chicago's 23-22 victory.

But Jennings made a game-changing play in the fourth quarter when he intercepted a Cam Newton pass intended for Smith and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown and a 20-19 lead. It was the second interception of the game for Jennings, who leads the NFL with six.

Smith took a shot at Jennings when he discussed the pick-six with reporters in the Panthers' postgame locker room.

"That was the best play he made all game on me," Smith said. "But it was a key moment in the game, changed the momentum. I know you want to pump him up. But I've been kicking his (butt) every time I come up here. And today wasn't no different. Do you disagree?"

Jennings said the Bears' plan was to minimize Smith's big plays.

"You just want to kind of limit his playmaking ability after he catches the ball, because he's going to catch a few balls. But you have to be there as soon as he catches because with this style of defense we play, you have to minimize the big-play ability. We got some holes in the defense; it wasn't like we just manned him up all game long. We gave him different looks. We knew with him being an All-Pro receiver he was going to find some holes in the defense and he was going to catch the ball. We just kind of wanted to minimize the big plays and keep him out of the end zone. We were able to kind of do that."