A week ago, Bears linebacker John Timu was on the practice squad. Sunday, he made a difference.
With the Lions on the verge of taking the lead early in the third quarter Sunday at Soldier field —a third-and-goal at the Bears’ 1-yard line and the Bears up 7-3 —Timu perfectly timed a blitz through the gut of the Lions’ offensive line to stop running back Zach Zenner in the backfield for a two-yard loss. It forced the Lions to settle for Matt Prater’s 21-yard field goal that cut the Bears lead to 7-6, when a touchdown would have given the Lions the lead.
“We knew what was coming,” Timu said. “[The coaches] did a great job of getting us prepared. We had the perfect call on defense. [The] timing is huge. But we knew the keys to when he was going to snap it and went off of that —and TFL.”
How did Timu know? “That’s classified information,” the second-year undrafted free agent from Washington said with a laugh. “We play those guys [again].
As it turns out, there’s no real secret. “It’s preparation,” Timu said. “That’s Vic [Fangio]. That’s Free [linebacker Jerrell Freeman] getting us right. And guys with experience letting us know certain keys and tendencies so we can time blitzes and know our coverages and anticipate.”
The Bears need gifted playmakers to become the defense they want to be. But for one day at least, they did it by putting coachable players in a position to make a difference.
“Timu might be one of the smartest people not just on the defense but on the team,” Freeman said. “His knowledge and him reading things and us talking — I got a feel for him. I know all I’ve got to do is do my job I don’t have to worry about Timu.”
With most of their top-tier free agents and high draft picks out of the picture — Pernell McPhee, Danny Trevathan, Leonard Floyd, Tracy Porter, Eddie Goldman and Kyle Fuller —several low-profile replacements came through to shut down Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense in the Bears’ best defensive performance of the season. The Bears did not allow a defensive touchdown for the first time since Lovie Smith was fired — the last time they accomplished that was in a 28-13 victory over the Cardinals in 2012.
Cornerback Jacoby Glenn, playing for Porter — who left with a sore knee late in the second quarter — had an interception at the Bears 13-yard-line that thwarted a Lions scoring chance at the end of the first half. Rookie cornerback Deiondre Hall intercepted Stafford at the Bears’ 14 with 4:03 to play — in his first series on defense. Second-year safety Adrian Amos stuffed Zenner for no gain on second-and-goal from the 1 that set up Timu’s big play. Cornelius Washington had a sack. Outside linebacker Sam Acho and nose tackle Will Sutton were among other replacement players who helped keep the Lions out of the end zone.
Hall also was in the right place at the right time when he picked off Stafford on a short pass for Anquan Boldin in the flat. Boldin wasn’t there Hall was.
“It looked like the quarterback threw it out there a little too early, thinking his guy would be there,” Hall said. “Credit to somebody on the defense — somebody got a nice re-route on the No. 2 [receiver and the slot or the tight end. But somebody got hands on. It delayed the route to getting out there.”
The Bears’ defense will face bigger tests than this one. But you have top start somehwere.
“Young guys stepping up — being where they’re supposed to be and doing what they’re supposed to do. That’s all we ask,” Freeman said. “Nothing extraordinary. Just do your job, and they were able to do that.”