Beyond Week 17

Once a week, Mark Craig will get on and off the field quickly, then focus a spotlight on a player and a coach.

Q: What can a receiver do to help prevent interceptions, takeaways?

Two years after tying an NFL record for fewest takeaways in a season with 11, the Bears lead the NFL in takeaways (36), interceptions (27) and points off turnovers (107). The next-closest team in takeaways is Cleveland with 30. The next closest in interceptions is Miami with 20. Vikings receiver Adam Thielen was asked today’s question.

AT: “[The Bears] do a really good job on after the catch of stripping the ball, going after the ball, tackling it. I think a lot of times coming back to the football, making sure that you’re running to the high point of the football and things like that. That can help prevent takeaways. But, at the same time, you have to play your game and make sure you’re doing the little things to make sure you’re not turning the ball over.”

MC: Are you more aware of guys jumping routes when they have so many interceptions?

AT: “You see them on tape, and it’s not like they’re going out of their defense. They’re really smart football players. They understand concepts and that’s why they’ve been able to have success and not give up big plays. A lot of times you see teams that jump routes and have a lot of turnovers but give up a lot of big plays. That’s not this team.”

MC: Do you stress coming back to the ball this week?

AT: “Yeah, finishing back to the ball. Making sure you’re not giving space to the DB to jump the route and things like that. A lot of times it’s the little things that a lot of people might not see that maybe create turnovers or maybe prevent turnovers.”


Aaron Donald, Rams defensive tackle

With 19½ sacks, he needs 3½ at home against the 49ers to top Hall of Famer Michael Strahan’s NFL record of 22½ and lock up his second straight NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, if he hasn’t already. San Francisco ranks 24th in sacks allowed per pass attempt. But quarterback Nick Mullens was sacked only once in last week’s 14-9 loss to the Bears. Last week: Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys: Helped the Cowboys clinch the NFC East by completing 20 of 25 passes for 161 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a 106.8 passer rating in a 27-20 win over the Buccaneers.


Gregg Williams, Browns interim coach

Yeah, he’s 60 years old. Yeah, he went 17-31 in Buffalo in his only non-interim head coaching stint back in 2001-03. Yeah, he’s comes with a salty side and Bountygate baggage. But Williams teamed with Baker Mayfield and an aggressive defense to breathe life back into the Cleveland stinking Browns. Williams is 5-2 since replacing the fired Hue Jackson. If the Browns upset the Ravens — who were the original Browns from 1946-95 — and knock them out of the playoff picture, Williams will have earned the right to remove his interim tag. Last week: Rams coach Sean McVay: Got his offense back on track after a two-game losing streak. Ran for 269 yards rushing on 41 carries (6.6) in a 31-9 rout at Arizona.