Chicago Bears Defensive Musings: Is This the Best Defense in the NFL?

Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst IOctober 14, 2010

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 10: Defensive end Julius Peppers #90 of the Chicago Bears lines up against tight end Jeff King #47 of the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on October 10, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Some may wonder just how good the Bears defense is.  If you look at the statistics, you will see that they are ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense.  They are allowing a total of 14.8 points per game, as well as a total of 295.2 yards per game.  Not too bad for a unit that was thought to be in trouble heading into the season.

So how are the Bears doing it on defense this season?  Who is stepping up and playing well enough to make this the sixth rated defense in the NFL?  Can they keep it up and keep winning games with this defense.

Perhaps the biggest difference in this defense from last season is that middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is finally healthy and playing.  Not only is Urlacher a vital part of the defense because of the way that he plays but he’s also important because of the way he communicates the plays to the other defenders (from the sidelines) and how he gets everyone lined up.  He is the heart and soul of that defense and with him back they have become hard to stop.

Any cover-two defense needs a good middle linebacker and Urlacher is the perfect fit for this defense.  He has the speed to cover the middle of the field and stick with backs and tight ends.  He also has the power to support against the run and the ability to rush the passer.  He’s a turnover creating machine and has recovered a fumble and had an interception so far among other things this season.

So it’s safe to say that Urlacher has been one of the biggest reasons for the defense’s resurgence this season so far.

Another player that is new to the Bears that has come in and had a huge impact through the first five games of the season has been defensive end Julius Peppers. 

Peppers was signed as a free agent from the Carolina Panthers during the offseason and it was thought that he would have a big impact on the team this season.  Of course, every free agent comes with some kind of negative talk and the knock on Peppers was that he took plays off (sometimes entire game off) and that he didn’t live up to his potential.

So far, through five games, Peppers doesn’t have that many sacks (right now he has two), but he has four passes defended, one interception and two forced fumbles.  His presence has been enough to cause offensive linemen to have false start penalties called against them (see the Green Bay game) and it has opened doors for his counterparts on the defensive line to make plays (Israel Idonije is a perfect example of this). 

So even though the statistics aren’t there Peppers presence has made a world of difference for the Bears so far on defense this season.

No discussion about the Bears defense would be complete without talking about the two great outside linebackers that they have.  Both Lance Briggs and Pisa Tinoisamoa have done very well for the Bears so far this season with Briggs playing at an assured Pro Bowl level.  As long as he can remain healthy, Briggs should be able to help this group maintain their solid standing in the NFL and win some games.

Tinoisamoa is really showing his value as well and after having missed almost the entire season last year, the Bears are certainly happy to have him back.  He can play well against the run and does well when having to drop back into coverage (as we saw in the Bear’s game against the Panthers).

The secondary was thought to be in trouble heading into this season and part of that could be related to the lack of a pass rush (or the perceived lack of a pass rush) heading into the 2010 season.  So far, the secondary has only really been tested twice (against the Cowboys and the Packers) and they have pretty much passed their tests. 

Health has always been an issue in the secondary and all the players in that unit have remained healthy all season.  If they can continue to do remain healthy this unit should be solid.

One other thing that has helped the secondary this season is the adjustments that the coaching staff has made. 

Remember when they took cornerback Zackary Bowman out of the game against the Packers and replaced him with Tim Jennings?  That move allowed the secondary to not skip a beat and has only served to improve their performance.  Changes like this will help keep this unit working well.

Swinging back around to the defensive line, we saw just how effective the line is starting to become with the performance that Idonije handed in the other day (against the Panthers).  This was what was supposed to happen with the arrival of Peppers and after five games it looks like it’s finally started to work.  It will be interesting to see what further damage Idonije and Peppers can do.

The defensive tackle position has had some interesting things happen to it so far this season.  Its former perennial Pro Bowl participant Tommie Harris was sat down for one game because he wasn’t playing the way that the Bears thought would be beneficial to the team as a whole.  Harris appears to be on the downside of his career, but thank goodness some of the other guys are stepping up and helping to fill in as needed.

The Bear’s defense is a solid unit with a lot of important players that help make it what it is today.  Their most important players are Peppers and Urlacher but everyone helps out to help this unit keep the team in the game and help make up for the problems on offense.

The problems on offense have put this defense up against the wall at times, but they have almost continually risen to the challenge and helped keep the Bears in the game and allowed them to win four out of five games.  As long as this group can stay healthy they should be able to help keep this team winning all season long.