Kelvin Hayden won’t be left out of Bears’ defensive bonanza
BY MARK POTASH email@example.com
Kelvin Hayden is giving the Bears an added threat at nickelback. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images
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Bears cornerback Kelvin Hayden has made his share of big plays. His 56-yard interception return for a touchdown all but clinched the Indianapolis Colts’ Super Bowl XLI victory in 2007.
But he’s never seen anything like this.
‘‘Not at all,’’ said Hayden, who continued to make the most of his opportunities at nickelback with two fumble recoveries in the Bears’ 50-21 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in Nashville. ‘‘You don’t [see] stuff like this every day. I’ve been around the league. I’ve played on some good defenses that have been able to force turnovers, but nothing like this.’’
Hayden, a starter with the Colts from 2007 to 2010, has made the most of a reserve role with the Bears. In the season opener against the Colts, he filled in for Charles Tillman after Tillman was injured on special teams in the first quarter.
And he has adapted quickly to the nickelback role he has been sharing with starter D.J. Moore. Against the Titans, Hayden had 23 snaps on defense. Moore had 12.
The Hayden-Moore combo gives the Bears more options to match up in passing situations.
‘‘D.J. Moore and Kelvin Hayden both have skills that we think can benefit our team if both of them play,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. The last couple weeks, we’ve seen it. It may be a little different this week. . . . They’re both good players, and we’ll look at the matchups and other things we have to decide exactly what playing time each guy will get.’’
It’s a bit of a blow to Moore, who has seen his role diminish recently. Moore’s value as a nickelback was mostly in his ability to make big plays. He had four interceptions and a 54-yard return for a touchdown in 2010 — the Bears’ only pick-six that season. He had four more interceptions and another touchdown in 2011. And he has two this season.
But with everybody else on defense making big plays, Moore is becoming the odd man out.
‘‘I don’t know [why],’’ Moore said. ‘‘I know I can play. I know that I’m the best at doing what I do. That’s the only thing I’m getting to do. It’s not like I’m playing corner. [Nickel] is what they want me to do. For me to not be out there, it’s fine.’’
As Moore knows, it’s a matter of opportunity. On a third-and-eight play in the second quarter against the Titans, he ran onto the field only to be called back as Hayden played the nickel. Two plays later, Brian Urlacher forced a Chris Johnson fumble and Hayden recovered it.
‘‘Nothing special,’’ Hayden said. ‘‘Just being at the right place at the right time.’’