The defensive end has played a big part in leading the Chicago Bears to a surprising 8-3 record.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – He stands 6-foot-3, weighs about 255 pounds and when he’s not terrorizing opposing offenses, Chicago Bears right defensive end Alex Brown likes to watch cartoons.

Yes, cartoons.

Specifically, “Dragon Ball Z.”

“My little brother watched it a lot growing up,” Brown said. “I think it’s an amazing cartoon. The ability that some of the characters have is unbelievable.”

Which is what teammates say about Brown.

Brown claims he’s not doing anything different lately, even though the numbers indicate otherwise. He has four sacks and three forced fumbles in the past two games.

He sacked Carolina’s Jake Delhomme twice two weeks ago in a 13-3 victory.

Then he got to Tampa Bay’s Chris Simms two times, broke up four passes in a 13-10 win and was selected the NFC’s defensive player of the week.

The Bears (8-3) have won seven straight heading into today’s game against Green Bay, lead the NFC North and trail Seattle by a game for the best record in the conference. They have the NFL’s No. 1 defense, and are allowing 10.9 points per game, 161.5 yards passing, 4.1 yards per play and 14.1 first downs – all league lows.

And Brown is making his presence felt.

“Alex does above and beyond things that you ask a defensive end to do,” cornerback Nathan Vasher said. “He plays great run defense, goes out on the edge, defends passes. He does some superhuman stuff out there. He makes everybody’s job a whole lot easier.”

He jarred the ball loose from Simms on an 8-yard sack, and Tommie Harris recovered at the Tampa Bay 1 to set up Chicago’s lone TD. Brown also batted three passes in the backfield and broke up one downfield intended for tight end Anthony Becht.

“The plays are coming,” left defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. “He’s finally getting his hands on the quarterback and he’s finishing the plays, and that’s one thing we’ve talked about since the beginning of camp. He’s got to find ways to finish and his last two weeks he’s been finishing.”

This is not the first time Brown has put up big numbers in bunches. He had six sacks last season, four in a game against the New York Giants.

Brown had just one sack in the first nine games this season, did not force a fumble and did not break up a pass. He was active, though, which is why the Bears don’t see the past two games as a sort of breakthrough.

“(Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera) always tells us figures lie and lies figure,” defensive tackle Darrell Campbell said.

“Just because earlier in the season the stats weren’t as prominent, he always did it in practice. … Now it’s starting to transfer over in a major way.”

After an All-American career at Florida, where he set a school-record with 33 sacks, Brown fell to the fourth round of the 2002 draft. There were questions about his tenacity, which he didn’t understand.

“A lot of people thought I couldn’t play,” he said. “They thought I took plays off and couldn’t play the run.”

A few lockers down, defensive tackle Alfonso Boone laughed and said, “You were drafted on the same day as me, and I played at a juco (Mount San Antonio Junior College in Walnut, Calif.).”

With a defense geared toward stopping the run, the Bears asked Boone to bulk up when they drafted him. So he shot from about 255 pounds to 275 as a rookie and 282 his second season. But things changed when coach Lovie Smith was hired in January 2004.

With more emphasis on speed and agility on defense, Smith asked players to lose weight. Brown, who played at 255 in college, happily obliged.

“You don’t get the same thing from your body when you add another 30 pounds,” he said. “It is a lot different. Coach came in, asked me to lose some weight, and I did. I was happy. I wanted to get the weight down so I could move around.”

Brown’s work ethic immediately stood out to Smith.

Players also mention Brown’s smile. They say he’s respectful, professional.

“Sometimes, you don’t see a whole lot of that being in the jobs that we are,” Vasher said. “He comes out and makes you ready to work with him.”

Campbell added: “He always has a smile on his face, and when he doesn’t, you want to know what’s wrong.”

Campbell helped rekindle Brown’s interest in “Dragon Ball Z.” Brown heard players calling Campbell “Goku” – the series’ hero – and that led to constant conversations about the cartoon.

“Whenever we talk about it, the guys look at us like we have two heads because they don’t understand, but we get it,” Campbell said. “It’s funny to us.”

The Bears are more amused by Brown’s performance – amused, but not surprised.

“Alex practices hard each day,” Smith said. “He’s a great guy. … He’s a guy who deserved to have a game like he’s been having lately.”

AP-ES-12-01-05 1759EST


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