Brian Urlacher: Why Bears Can Overcome Loss of Hall of Fame LB

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystDecember 4, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 19:  Brian Urlacher #54 of the Chicago Bears lines up against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on November 19, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It's been a rough few days for the Chicago Bears.

Not only did the team lose in heartbreaking fashion at home to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, dropping them out of first place in the NFC North, but now as the team prepares for a crucial division showdown with the Minnesota Vikings, they'll be doing so without one of their defensive leaders.

Starting middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who has 68 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception this season, will miss at least the next three games after suffering a "Grade 2" hamstring strain in the loss to the Seahawks, according to Sean Jensen of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Vaughn McClure of The Chicago Tribune reports that the 34-year-old Urlacher heard a "pop" on the next to last play of Sunday's loss while chasing down Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, and it's well within the realm of possibility that the injury will cost Urlacher the remainder of the regular season.

That absence will include a pivotal Week 15 matchup at Soldier Field against the Green Bay Packers.  It may very well decide the NFC North, and while losing Urlacher is certainly a serious blow to the Bears, it's far from a death knell for their season.

For starters, the Bears have a capable replacement for Urlacher in Nick Roach, who will take over for Urlacher in the middle of Chicago's 4-3 defense.

The sixth-year pro, who has 35 tackles 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble so far this season, is a solid if unspectacular player who has extensive experience both in Chicago's defense and filling in for Urlacher. Roach made several starts at middle linebacker for an injured Urlacher in 2009.

Second, with all due respect to Urlacher—who will but certainly one day be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame—we aren't talking about the dominant defensive force of the past, as age and injuries have conspired to rob Urlacher of a step or two.

This isn't to say that Urlacher won't be missed—his leadership and savvy on the field absolutely will be.

However, the Chicago Bears are a defense filled with veterans that both know their roles and have some experience playing without No. 54 in the fold, so Chicken Little can stow it.

The sky isn't falling.