Urlacher proving his athleticism still matches his experience
BY ADAM L. JAHNS email@example.com
LINEBACKERS: A Brian Urlacher keeps getting better the more he plays. Urlacher had a 46-yard INT return for a TD, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. Nick Roach had a big third-and-1 stop to force a punt.
Until Sunday, most of the stories about Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher this season dealt with his gradual return from spraining ligaments in his left knee in the regular-season finale last year.
A pick-six can change things.
“That’s who he is. He makes plays like that,” Bears safety Chris Conte said of Urlacher’s 46-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Bears’ 51-20 thumping of the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
“I think it’s been hard for him with the injury and stuff, and now you see him back making plays.”
The interception return wasn’t so much a testament to Urlacher’s once-renowned athleticism, but to his wits and experience.
Urlacher read Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck perfectly and stepped in front of a pass intended for receiver Damian Williams. He then picked up some good blocks as he nimbly sidestepped Hasselbeck on his way into the end zone.
It was his first interception return for a touchdown since 2007, when he brought one back 85 yards. It also was the 22nd interception of his career.
“We were in cover-1,” cornerback Tim Jennings said. “I don’t know exactly what Brian saw, but obviously he was there in the right position and Hasselbeck didn’t see him. He just had to make one guy miss, and he was off to the races.”
“I thought I could get it there,” Hasselbeck said of his pass. “It was horrible. Bad tackle.”
Urlacher said he was just trying to read Hasselbeck.
“I’m the plugger. I didn’t have a responsibility, no man [to cover],” Urlacher said. “Lance [Briggs] was guarding the back. I was trying to read [Hasselbeck’s] eyes and trying to get underneath one of the guys running across the middle.”
Urlacher said he never felt left out seeing others on his defense score touchdowns — “Every time they win, I’m part of it,” he said — but seeing the 2005 defensive player of the year return to the highlight reel bodes well for a defense that already has made a season’s worth of top plays.
“Takeaways, the big plays, I’ve never been around anything like this in high school, college [or] any level,” Urlacher said. “Every week it seems like someone else is doing it.”