Chicago Sun-Times

Julius Peppers raises the bar for Bears' red-hot defense

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Julius Peppers:Lance Briggs.jpgJulius Peppers is neither easily impressed nor prone to overstatement. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that this Bears' defense is unlike any other he has ever played for.

Five defensive touchdowns in five games? Two pick-sixes in back-to-back weeks? By the same two players?

''I haven't seen it in a while,'' Peppers said, before pausing. ''I don't know if I've ever seen it before.''

But that was as far as Peppers would allow himself to be impressed after the Bears beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 41-3 on Sunday at EverBank Stadium.

What does it say that after the Bears struggled to a 3-3 halftime tie against the Jaguars, they outscored them 38-0 in the second half to win in a rout.

''It says we need to play better in the first half,'' Peppers said. ''It's says we're not there yet. We have a lot of things to clean up and we can get a lot better, because it was a 3-3 ballgame. It wasn't necessarily good enough in the first half.''

The Bears five interception-return touchdowns in five games matches the franchise record set in 2004, Lovie Smith's first season as the Bears' head coach when the team had five pick-6s -- by Jerry Azumah (70 yards), Nathan Vasher (71 yards), R.W. McQuarters (45 yards), Michael Haynes (45 yards) and Lance Briggs (38 yards).

And more importantly, the double pick-6s against Dallas and Jacksonville both turned subpar offensive performances into convincing victories -- 33-18 over the Cowboys and 41-3 over the Jaguars. Not too long ago, the Bears would get sucked into a taffy pull like this one against an outmanned opponent early in the second half and would struggle to win, or worse, lose outright.

''I don't want to diminish the fact that we put together an impressive second half, because it was great and it showed a lot of character,'' Peppers said. '' It showed a lot of heart for the guys to put out that type of effort. But we've got to play better in the first half so that it's not that close.''

Whether they want it or not, the Bears have a bye week to improve.

''Guys are playing well -- [there's] no other way to put it,'' Peppers said. ''We're playing well. We've got to continue. The bye's not coming at the best time. It is, but it isn't. We're playing well, we want to continue riding this wave. But it's a good opportunity to rest up and get guys healthy.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on October 8, 2012 12:44 AM.

Fox's Terry Bradshaw to Jay Cutler: 'Grow up young man' was the previous entry in this blog.

Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs enter NFL history books together is the next entry in this blog.

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