NAM Y. HUH / Associated Press

Bears defender Charles Tillman is "so far ahead of everybody (at forcing turnovers), it's not even funny," 49ers coach Greg Roman said.

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Chicago Bears adept at forcing turnovers

Published: Monday, Nov. 19, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Monday, Nov. 19, 2012 - 7:50 am

SANTA CLARA – The rake, the lawnmower, the stripper, the punch.

Anyone jumping in on Greg Roman's news conference two days ago might have thought the 49ers' offensive coordinator was listing the items in his garage.

Instead, he was describing the techniques the Chicago Bears' defense has used this season to dislodge the football from opponents.

"It's not just a team giving the ball away. The (Bears) are taking it," Roman said. "We've got a huge challenge in front of us, and (we're) looking forward to it."

The Bears lead the league with 30 takeaways, and they are on pace for 53 this season.

Whether they continue that trend against a 49ers team that rarely loses the football promises to be one of the key story lines tonight. A win would vault the 49ers (6-2-1) past the Bears (7-2) into second place in the NFC with six games to play.

The 49ers have committed nine turnovers this season, tying them with three other squads for the sixth fewest entering this weekend's games. They have committed no turnovers in four of their games, including last week's tie against the St. Louis Rams, and they haven't lost a fumble since Colin Kaepernick did so Oct. 7 against the Buffalo Bills.

The Bears, meanwhile, have recovered a league-high 11 fumbles this season through a variety of means. One is the lawnmower method, whereby a defender holds up a ballcarrier while another comes in and – picture someone yanking the starter cord on a lawnmower – tries to pull the ball free.

Roman spoke reverentially about one Bears defender in particular, cornerback Charles Tillman, who has forced seven fumbles this season.

"When it comes to stripping the ball and punching it out, he is just so far ahead of everybody, it's not even funny," Roman said. "Every play, he's got a plan on how he's going to approach a tackle. That's very rare. I can't say I've seen anybody do it with that kind of precision. So it's very impressive."

Carlos Rogers said that when he watches the Bears' defense, he's reminded of the 49ers' – at least the 2011 version.

"This defense lines up just like us," the 49ers cornerback said. "They get after the ballcarriers; they run to the ballcarrier. One thing they're doing this (season) is taking the ball away and turning those turnovers into points. That's something we haven't been able to do."

Indeed, the 49ers are not nearly as opportunistic as they were last season, when a league-high 38 takeaways translated into 108 points. This season, the 49ers have forced a respectable 13 turnovers but are on pace to have 15 fewer than a year ago.

Only one takeaway – Rogers' 51-yard fumble return in Week 4 against the New York Jets – has resulted in a defensive touchdown.

The Bears' defense, meanwhile, has scored seven touchdowns this season, including two each by Tillman and linebacker Lance Briggs.

Briggs, in fact, suggested that he and teammate Brian Urlacher have wrestled back the title of best inside linebacker duo from 49ers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.

The Bears' pair has three interceptions and three forced fumbles, and has scored three touchdowns this year.

Bowman and Willis have combined for two interceptions and one forced fumble, and have not scored a touchdown.

Said Briggs, who played at Elk Grove High School: "The way I look at it, over here we've got 15 Pro Bowls between the two of us and probably about eight (All-Pro selections). We'll let that (speak) for itself."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Matthew Barrows



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