Bears climb into 2nd place tie in NFC North
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP)
More aggressive, physical defensive play helped the Chicago Bears put together their four-game winning streak. They are hoping aggressive play doesn't hurt them before they even kick off against the Chargers next weekend.
A brawl during a 37-13 win over the Detroit Lions had the Bears waiting nervously for possible fines or even suspensions that could impact who plays Sunday against a Chargers team which has lost four straight.
''There were a lot of things that happened that I could talk about during the course of the game, but you let the officials kind of make their call and go from there,'' Bears coach Lovie Smith said. ''But I can't say you can say we were trying to do anything cheap during the course of a game.''
The brawl erupted after Lions quarterback Matt Stafford threw one of his four interceptions, this one to cornerback Tim Jennings. While nickel back D.J. Moore blocked Stafford, the Lions quarterback appeared to grab Moore's face mask and flung him to the ground. Moore responded by taking a run and throwing a block hard into Stafford in front of the Lions bench. Players from both teams came onto the field, and Moore was ejected.
''First off, you shouldn't retaliate on something that happens, and officials are supposed to be looking at the instigator in situations like that,'' Smith said. ''D.J. was not. Stafford grabbed him by his helmet. You can't do that, either. In those situations, I could understand the officials throwing out one guy -- D.J. -- but it seemed like both guys should have been thrown out in that situation.''
NFL officials have a lot to sort out, since numerous Bears players came across the field and some Lions were involved, too.
''The NFL, with video, modern video, you have a chance to look at everything of what happened and that's what the league is doing, I assume early this morning, and now and I'm anxious to see exactly what they rule based on what everyone did,'' Smith said.
Between whistles, the Bears defense gave an effort Smith called one of the best his teams have produced, forcing six turnovers and scoring touchdowns on interception returns by cornerback Charles Tillman and safety Major Wright.
It continued a trend of strong defensive play that started after the team's last loss, 24-13 at Detroit on Oct. 10. The defense hasn't allowed more than 17 points in a game since then. Philadelphia scored 24 on Nov. 7, but seven resulted from a defensive touchdown. Tampa Bay had 18, but two points came on a safety.
Although there has been discussion that the Bears secondary is playing more man-to-man coverage than in the past, Smith denied it and said it's the same system -- they're just running it better.
''Part of our system isn't giving up big plays,'' Smith said. ''Keeping the ball in front of us, playing the same way -- we're putting the guys in the same position that we try to each week. We're not going to change what we do an awful lot this week.
''It's about execution and that's what the guys are buying into more and just their role. This crew, talking about our defensive crew, has been playing together for a while now, too. So I think they know what we're trying to get accomplished.''
One difference the Bears have acknowledged is moving defensive end Julius Peppers inside to defensive tackle or stunting him with tackle Henry Melton so that he is pass rushing up the middle. Smith credited defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli with pushing for the scheme.
''It's great,'' defensive end Israel Idonije said. ''That's a mismatch 100 percent of the time, him with a guard. So it really causes a problem for the offenses we'll play because now they're going to have to slide or bring someone over to help. It's going to open up another guy to rush.''
Peppers has six sacks, a forced fumble, four tackles for losses, and two fumble recoveries this season.
''He's a beast,'' nose tackle Anthony Adams said.