MORRISSEY: Bears have turned forced fumbles, INTs into art form
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org November 5, 2012 8:02PM
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A After being named the Player of the Month for October, Charles Tillman was even better Sunday, with 4 forced fumbles to spark the rout. Chris Conte had 3 pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
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I’m trying to remember how many times I’ve said the Bears can’t continue to force turnovers at such a furious pace. Twenty times? Thirty?
Or perhaps just seven times —one for every defensive touchdown they’ve scored in the first eight games?
I’ve said it so often that it had become a self-evident truth to me: Of course they can’t keep doing this, and someday soon, the day of reckoning will arrive. The Bears will have to win games the traditional way, by making their own running backs and receivers pay it forward into the end zone, the slackers.
But the halfway point of the season seems like a good time to acknowledge that all the fumble recoveries, all the interceptions and all the Charles Tillman, all the time, are simply what the Bears are. It’s not some strange, wonderful anomaly. Being turnover pigs is part of their DNA.
If you think in those terms, you won’t see disaster around every corner, or at least around the next two corners, the ones where Houston and San Francisco are lurking. It sure looks as if the Bears can count on several turnovers every game.
“This is what they do’’ is how Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck put it after Tillman forced four fumbles in the Bears’ 51-20 blowout Sunday. Simple and succinct.
The Bears certainly aren’t looking at their 21 forced fumbles and 17 interceptions as an embarrassment of riches or as natural resources that will surely dry up. They are approaching them as business as usual.
“Why not?’’ Tillman said. “The sky is the limit. I think each week we do want to get better. Our goal isn’t to peak right at Week 8.’’
If you can feel sorry for a dog that has made the unfortunate decision to take on a porcupine, you can feel sorry for the Titans. They thought they were playing a football team when, in fact, they were playing a crime spree. If Titans owner Bud Adams had understood that, he might have been a little more understanding of what took place. After the game, he put his organization on notice, saying everyone from the coaches to the guy who retrieves the tee after a kickoff would be evaluated.
“In my 50 years of owning an NFL franchise, I am at a loss to recall a regular-season home game that was such a disappointment for myself and fans of the Titans,’’ he told the Tennessean. “We were grossly outcoached and outplayed.’’
Don’t take it so hard, Buddy boy. Your team just got Beared, i.e., stripped naked. It happens. The Bears lead the NFL in forced fumbles. Five of those came against the Titans. They are tied for the lead in interceptions. And of course they lead the league in defensive touchdowns. Old man Brian Urlacher provided the most recent one, a 46-yard interception return.
Most of the credit goes to the players who cause the turnovers, but some of it has to go to coach Lovie Smith, who preaches his Gospel of Taketh Away to anyone who will listen. All coaches talk about the importance of creating turnovers, but few repeat themselves as often as Smith does.
Either nobody works at causing fumbles like the Bears do or nobody has the team-wide skill set to succeed at it. When Tillman sees an opponent with the football, he pulls, punches, scrapes and claws at it. If you were digging for buried treasure, you’d want this guy on your team.
In the old days, fumbles used to happen in the process of a tackle. Now it’s the other way around. The violent forced-fumble attempt comes first, followed by the tackle attempt.
It should be a recipe for missed tackles and big plays by the opposing offense. But the Bears have had it both ways, with turnovers and fairly secure tackling.
It’s not for everyone, though you can bet in the copycat NFL, teams will try to take the Bears’ path to success. There’s a good chance we’ll see a lot of messy defense for years to come.
But that’s for other people to worry about. The Bears will keep doing what they do so well. They will, won’t they? The fumbles and interceptions will continue to flow, right? You’d be a fool to say otherwise.
If they don’t get a turnover in one of their remaining games, it will be big news. Hey, it could happen. Possibly. Maybe. Nah.