The Chicago Bears are proving to be exceptionally dangerous on defense, not that coach Lovie Smith is ready to dub this the best unit he's ever coached.
Not yet anyway.
Charles Tillman forced four fumbles, and Brian Urlacher became the latest defender to return an interception for a touchdown as the Chicago Bears scored their most points since 1980 in blowing out the Tennessee Titans 51-20 Sunday.
Smith said it's a little early to decide just how good these Bears are.
"We like where we are right now," Smith said. "I know this defense is doing some things that no other defense has done that I've been a part of. You know scoring touchdowns, the amount of takeaways we've been able to get. That is special what we have going at the halfway point."
The Bears (7-1) reached the midpoint having won six straight, and Tillman, the NFC defensive player for October, made sure they avoided a sluggish start by stripping the ball from Titans receiver Kenny Britt on Tennessee's first offensive play. Tillman followed that up by knocking the ball away from Chris Johnson twice and finally from tight end Jared Cook.
"I have never seen anything like it," Urlacher said. "Every week it seems like we are talking about one of those two corners doing something like that. A defensive lineman I can understand getting sacks, but as a corner to get four like that, it's unbelievable."
The Bears topped the 50-point mark with 10 minutes left when Jay Cutler and Marshall connected on their third TD pass, and Chicago posted its highest-scoring game since matching a team record in a 61-7 win over Green Bay on Dec. 7, 1980. The Bears kicked it off with a franchise-record 28 points in the first quarter keyed by creating three turnovers in the first 13 minutes, resulting in 14 points.
Urlacher became the latest Bears defender to score on an interception return. They have done it a club record seven times — no other NFL team had returned six for TDs through the first seven games of any season.
"We have been waiting for Brian to really step up like that," Smith said. "Outstanding job by him. Touchdown, caused fumble, recovered fumble. The defense was a frenzy out there, really taking the ball away."
The Titans (3-6) wound up allowing their most points since being routed 59-0 on Oct. 18, 2009, by New England, and it easily was a low point for a team that came in allowing 32.1 points per game.
"I don't think there is any way to explain it other than the fact we did our best to give that game away in the first quarter," Titans coach Mike Munchak said.
Making it worse was that coaches had warned the Titans all week about protecting the ball from the Bears.
"I don't think I've ever seen them do such an amazing job of getting the ball out," Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "Partly credit them. Right now for us, we are blaming ourselves."
Tennessee's lone highlight when Chris Johnson scored on an 80-yard run in the fourth quarter. Johnson finished with 141 yards against the NFL's best rushing defense, with a big chunk coming when he broke out and went up the right sideline with 10:09 left in the fourth quarter. It was his fifth TD of 80 yards or longer, padding his NFL mark in that category.
Turnovers are becoming contagious for the Bears, and the quick start helped the offense ease through another slow start. Chicago wound up outgaining Tennessee 358-333 despite holding the ball for 37 minutes. Cutler finished with 229 yards passing despite watching the final 10 minutes.
Corey Wootton returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. Matt Forte also ran for a touchdown in the first quarter and finished with 103 yards rushing on 12 carries. Robbie Gould kicked three field goals with a long of 39.
Chicago fans took over LP Field, booing any video highlights featuring the rival Packers and frequently chanting "Let's go, Bears."
"It was weird," Cutler said of all the Bears fans. "I had to hush the crowd down in the red zone, and they got quiet really quick. We have the best fans in the world."
That prompted an apology from Titans receiver Nate Washington to the Tennessee fans who stuck it out to the end.
"We've just got to do better," Washington said.
NOTES: Cutler finished with a 138.1 passer rating, and his teams now are 26-0 including playoffs when he posts a rating of 100 or better. ... Cutler was sacked 11 times in the previous two games, and Tennessee finished with three sacks. ... The Bears topped the 24 points they scored in the first quarter Oct. 29, 2006, against San Francisco. ... The Titans now have allowed at least 30 points in seven of nine games this season. ... Johnson tied Jim Brown for the second-most 110-yard rushing games in a player's first five seasons with 28.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker