After a sterling defensive performance that included a franchise-record seventh interception return for a touchdown this season, Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli challenged his players to step it up.
''It doesn't matter how good it is. It's never good enough. That's the mentality,'' defensive end Israel Idonije said.
Even after dominating the Tennessee Titans in a 51-20 rout at LP Field in Nashville, the Bears know they'll have to reach yet another level in upcoming prime-time games against the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers.
Both teams will test the Bears' uncanny knack for creating turnovers. The Bears lead the NFL in fumbles forced with 21 (The Patriots are second with 18) and are tied with the Patriots for fumbles recovered with 11 (only seven teams have more than four). The Bears also lead the NFL in interceptions with 17 and turnover-differential with plus-16.
But the Texans have just six turnovers this season. Matt Schaub has been intercepted five times -- with the average return 8.8 yards and the longest return 20 yards. The Texans also have fumbled four times in eight games, losing just one.
The 49ers have been intercepted five times with an average return of 14. 0 yards, but the longest 24. The 49ers have fumbled 10 times and lost four.
''It's not going to get easier,'' idonije said. ''It gets harder. The closer you get to your goal, it gets harder. Teams play you harder. The opposition's level of play increases. So we're ready for that.''
Idonije said that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli called the outstanding effort by the defense against the Titans ''special,'' but also issued a challenge, as he always does. ''Let's be special again,' Idonije said. ''Coach Marinelli, that's what he preaches and guys went out there and played at a high level.''