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Briggs taking his game to another level

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 10:00 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/MCT)
Chicago Bears outside linebacker Lance Briggs (55) smiles as he runs into the end zone after his interception for a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half of their game at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, on Sunday, October 7, 2012.

CHICAGO (MCT) — Before declaring Lance Briggs the Usain Bolt of linebackers, Brian Urlacher playfully stole some of the thunder from his touchdown-making tag-team partner.

Briggs became a part of NFL history Sunday with his 36-yard interception return for a score against the Jaguars — his second pick-six in as many games. He and cornerback Charles Tillman became the first pair of teammates to return interceptions for touchdowns in consecutive games.

“I mean, he’s always been athletic as hell,” Urlacher said of Briggs, “but he made those two fatties miss — the two offensive linemen — in Dallas, and Tim (Jennings) made a nice block for him.

“It is unbelievable, though, man. He looks fast. I’m not going to say Lance looks lean, but he looks fast. For a guy his size, he can run.”

The 6-foot-1, 244-pound Briggs, who has been selected to seven consecutive Pro Bowls, seems to have elevated his play to yet another level. Besides his usual sure tackling, Briggs has compiled 110 yards on his two interceptions — only 67 yards fewer than the Bears amassed on 20 interceptions in 2011. He also has one of the defense’s 18 sacks.

“I see more now,” Briggs said Monday. “My understanding of the game is just great. And a lot of us understand things very well. Our chemistry is at an all-time high.

“And I really do like the wave that we’re on. To tell you the truth, I don’t want to rest during this bye week. I would like to keep on going through to continue this streak.”

The Bears have had a pick-six in each of the last three games, going back to safety Major Wright’s 45-yard return versus the Rams. Their 13 interceptions lead the league. And Briggs has one of the team’s four forced fumbles, although coach Lovie Smith said the defense needs to improve in that category.

“Lovie’s expectations for all of us are extremely high,” Briggs said. “Turnover ratio is huge for us. So he’s right in that aspect: We need to create more and more and more turnovers. We have to put that into our opponents’ minds every time they step on the field against us.”

Briggs, 31, said he pays closer attention to detail than he did four or five years ago. Now he is more of a teacher on the field than the pupil.

“Us older guys, the ones who have been in the system for a while, the coaches really listen to us,” Briggs said. “They listen to things and the ideas that we have that we think will work. And (they) will try to implement those things into our game plan every week.”

Urlacher agreed the coaches have given the older defensive players more of a voice this season.

“This is the most input that we’ve had in our scheme,” Urlacher said. “The coaches listen to us. When we come off the field and even the week of the game, they’ll ask us what we think. Lance has a lot of good ideas for his blitzes. And they’re working.”

Smith expected to see more from Briggs this season.

“I know he verbalized what he would do this year, how he was going to work harder in the meeting rooms, on the practice field, getting his body in better shape,” Smith said. “He talked an awful lot about that in the offseason.

“That’s what’s really neat, when you have a player with great talent, he’s a Pro Bowler, and he’s saying: ‘I haven’t done enough. I can do more to help my team win.’ “

Urlacher wouldn’t say Briggs is playing better than ever because he has seen the same consistent, productive player every year. Briggs also refused to make that claim.

“I don’t know,” he said. “That’s a question to be asked at the end of the year.”

Another Pro Bowl selection is likely to be the answer.

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