Five more turnovers for vaunted Bears ‘D’ that keeps getting better
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter
PITTSBURGH — Lance Briggs insists the Bears aren’t blitzing their linebackers any more than they did under Lovie Smith. Whatever, they’re better at it under Mel Tucker.
D.J. Williams had two sacks and Briggs had another in the Bears’ 40-23 victory Sunday over the Steelers at Heinz Field, giving Bears linebackers as many sacks in one game as they had all season in 2012.
Williams set the tone when he sacked Ben Roethlisberger on a blitz on the Steelers’ third offensive play of the game, forcing a fumble that James Anderson recovered. It was the first of five takeaways, two of which went for defensive touchdowns. Safety Major Wright returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown and Briggs forced a fumble that Julius Peppers returned 42 yards for a clinching score with 3:57 to play. Wright also had a forced fumble.
‘‘Now I see what it feels like,’’ said Anderson, who played for the Carolina Panthers before joining the Bears this season. ‘‘Everybody watches film, saying, ‘How do you guys do it?’ I know now how they do it.
‘‘You get what you emphasize, and every day it’s turnovers. We preach it. We practice it. And that’s what you get in the game.’’
One difference in the Bears’ defense is the effectiveness of their blitzing linebackers. Williams came in free late in the first quarter and added another sack for a nine-yard loss.
‘‘I think it’s a defensive thing,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘Lance Briggs is a great teacher. He shows us some veteran things.’’
‘‘Yes, we applied some pressure,’’ was all Briggs would say when asked about the improved effectiveness of the blitzes.
The Bears allowed 459 total yards as Roethlisberger completed 26 of 41 passes for 406 yards and two touchdowns. But Big Ben also threw two interceptions — safety Chris Conte had one in the fourth quarter — and fumbled three times, losing two.
‘‘I’m never surprised at what the guys in this locker room do,’’ said Peppers, who had one assisted tackle. ‘‘We did it last year. We’ve been doing it. It’s one of those things we expect to do at this point. It’s a credit to the coaches and to the players making plays. We have to continue practicing to get better and continue doing it to keep winning.’’
The defense needed just about every turnover it got against the Steelers. Roethlisberger threw touchdown passes of 33 and 21 yards to Antonio Brown as the Steelers rallied from a 24-3 deficit in the second quarter to 27-23 with 10:38 to play.
But after Jay Cutler and the offense drove 74 yards on nine plays for a 17-yard touchdown pass to Earl Bennett, the defense applied the finishing touch. On first-and-10 from the Bears’ 48, Briggs sacked Roethlisberger and the ball popped into the air. Peppers, while engaged with a blocker, picked the ball out of the air with his free hand, shook loose and ran 42 yards for a clinching touchdown for a 40-23 lead with 3:57 left.
‘‘I happened to be right there at the right place at the right time,’’ Peppers said. ‘‘The ball bounced to me. I got a hand on it and took it in. There wasn’t really too much else about it.’’
The Bears appeared to be on tilt in the fourth quarter but made plays on both sides of the ball to avoid disaster.
‘‘We have a good veteran presence, especially with a lot of the core players,’’ Peppers said. ‘‘It’s a no-panic situation over here. We actually like being uncomfortable in those situations. We are comfortable being uncomfortable in those situations. We’re getting used to it. Hopefully it will continue.’’