Award Winning Performance

Lake Forest - Alex Brown's four-sack performance against the Giants earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week Award, which is the second straight week a Bear defender received the honor.

"To me, it really belongs to the DL as a whole," Brown said. "We're all playing harder, we're definitely better. Somebody had to be in the right place at the right time to stop the Giants. Last Sunday, it was me. Next week, it will probably be somebody else. Everybody is stepping up and we're getting good things done. That's the really important part of all of this."

Brown is right in the fact that the defensive turnaround has been an 11-man effort. The biggest difference between this year's unit, which is No. 9 in the NFL in yards and points allowed, is a pass rush that is actually a threat to opposing quarterbacks. On the strength of a seven-sack effort against the Giants, the Bears have risen to No. 7 in sack percentage. Last season they were No. 32 and had a franchise-low 18 sacks. They already have 21 this season.

Still it was Brown that stood out above the rest. He finished the game with 8 tackles and 4 sacks and now leads the team with 11 tackles for negative yardage and with five QB takedowns. He also paces the linemen with 44 tackles, which is fifth best on the team. Brown has also knocked down 4 passes, second to safety Mike Green.

The 6-foot-3 Brown dropped 20 pounds, down to 262, which is a similar weight to what he played in college and can be attributed for increased production.

"For me, its all about the process. It's a matter of putting in the hard work every day, running, lifting, doing whatever it takes. I've always believed in the value of hard work and this year, it's definitely paying off. I‘m not surprised that my results have improved. I lost 20 pounds in the off-season and I am quicker. It's a lot easier for me to rush the quarterback than it was last year."

For Lovie Smith, Brown didn't have a breakout performance against the Giants, it was more of a culmination of hard work.

"Of course, great game by him, (but really) a reward really for how he's played really the last month," Smith said. "I think we're making progress in all of the different phases.

"We need a speed rusher on the outside. And as far as how I've seen him develop, that speed, he started to come and get pressure. And that's normally how it starts. You get close and he's been close plenty of times. It's not like he all of the sudden has become a pass rusher. He's been there. I just think his normal growth, like a lot of our players have gone through in the system, and he is a good player and now he's starting to hopefully peak at the right time."

The 25-year-old Brown will be a restricted free agent after the season, and a double-digit sack year would be a powerful bargaining chip for a long-term contract. Without that kind of offer, Brown could sign for one year and become an unrestricted free agent after next season, but he said he'd prefer to stay with the Bears.

"We've got a lot of good players here, some great players, and they're very young," he said. "As far as the d-line goes, we have nobody over 27. It's unbelievable. For the next 2-3 years, if we can stay together, we could really be dominant in the league if we continue to progress, barring injury and things like that."

When asked if the Pro Bowl was in his immediate future, Brown tried to put things in perspective.

"LaDainian Tomlinson didn't go last year, did he? The Pro Bowl is all opinion from the fans, the coaches. Sure it's something to aim for, it's a definite honor, but a lot of top players never make that trip. If I do get an invitation at some point, I'll be honored and thrilled to go. If I don't I'll know in my heart that I played my hardest. That is my real goal."

FAST FACT: With the Defensive Player of the Week Award going to Brown and Brian Urlacher, who took the award in Week 8, in back-to-back weeks it marks the first time Bears' defenders have captured consecutive honors when Mark Carrier, Richard Dent, Mike Singletary and Mike Merriweather did it in 1990.

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