The Chicago Bears lead the NFL in takeaways through the first five weeks of the 2012 season with 17 forced turnovers, which shouldn't be a surprise because it's what head coach Lovie Smith preaches every day. The surprising part is that defensive backs are leading the way.
Cornerback Tim Jennings ranks first in the NFL in individual interceptions (4 INTs), while teammates Charles Tillman (3) and Major Wright (3) aren't far behind. In other words, it's been a good year for the secondary.
In sum, the Bears have snatched a league-leading 13 interceptions, which is more than the combined total of the New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions. The defensive line has been a factor -- as Chicago also leads the NFL with 18 sacks -- but the guys on the back end of the defense have made their share of special plays to propel the team to an impressive 4-1 start.
Chris Conte has been a steady presence at free safety, Major Wright has stepped up at the strong safety, and Tim Jennings and Peanut Tillman are doing their job on the perimeter of the defense even when asked to break from the Tampa-2 mold and engage in more man-to-man coverage. Head coach Lovie Smith recently told the Chicago Tribune that Jon Hoke should be considered a big part of that success as well:
"I think you have to give a coach some credit," coach Lovie Smith said. "Jon has been a good coach since he came here. I know how he's coaching the guys. He's thorough, he's a good technician. As a coach, that's what you are trying to do - you get a product, you make it better. It's safe to say he's done that."
The Bears have built up the No. 3 scoring defense in the NFL and they have allowed just 14.2 points per contest while scoring five touchdowns of their own. If the unit keeps up this level of play, the Bears could be primed for a deep playoff run in 2012.