Jennings has big-play knack
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Jennings, perhaps embracing the cornerback mentality, couldn't recall a key play immediately after the Bears' victory Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.
Just before halftime, two plays after Jennings seemed to dive prematurely and miss on an interception, the Bills scored.
''They ran the ball on the touchdown,'' Jennings said.
But Jennings was reminded that Bills receiver Roscoe Parrish slid and hauled in a well-placed pass from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for a 14-yard touchdown.
''Oh, yeah, yeah,'' Jennings said. ''Fitzpatrick put it right there. That was a good throw.''
Jennings said he made a lot of good breaks on the ball against the Bills, but he couldn't make a play and prevent completions. But the fifth-year veteran has lasted this long, in part, because of his perseverance and his refusal to dwell on the past.
On the sideline, Jennings recalled thinking he wanted one more opportunity.
''If I get another play, I've got to make it,'' Jennings told himself.
He got his wish in the fourth quarter.
Bills receiver Steve Johnson, who had 11 catches for 145 yards, fooled Jennings with a double move on the right sideline.
''Yeah, I was definitely a step behind him,'' Jennings said. ''He had me on that one.''
But Jennings didn't give up on the play, scrambling to make up ground. In the process, Fitzpatrick underthrew the pass. Jennings tipped the ball, eventually controlled it and returned it 29 yards. That set up the Bears' go-ahead touchdown.
It was the second time this season Jennings came up with a huge turnover. Against the Green Bay Packers, Jennings made a difficult recovery of a fumble forced by linebacker Brian Urlacher to secure a victory.
Asked about Jennings' mistakes, Bears coach Lovie Smith said: ''All players make mistakes. ... You want their big plays, of course, to stand out a little bit more than some of those not-so-good plays. But for Tim, in crunch time, you just look at what he does as a defensive back.''
There wasn't overwhelming interest in Jennings when the Bears signed him to a modest two-year deal in mid-March.
''I had a couple [of teams interested], but it was real quiet,'' Jennings said.
But Jennings was a role player in a similar defense with the Indianapolis Colts, and the Bears needed some depth.
''I feel like Chicago was the best situation for me, playing that Tampa-2 defense,'' he said.
Jennings was steady during the preseason and early in the season. He eventually surpassed Zack Bowman on the depth chart and has started the last five games.
Safety Danieal Manning said Jennings fits the personality of the Bears' defense.
''He's just a different type of talent,'' Manning said, taking his time to come up with a polite way to talk about Jennings' 5-8 stature. ''He's a short guy, but he just plays so big. He comes up and makes big hits, stuffs blockers.
''I mean, he can play football.''