Behind strong defense, dynamic special teams and an increasingly productive offense, the Chicago Bears, for the first time since 2006, are poised to make a playoff appearance. In many ways, this 2010 squad resembles the Super Bowl bound Bears of 2006. Both teams boast strong defenses, excellent special teams and, at times, unpredictable offenses.
Considering these similarities, which team is better?
To answer this question, let’s examine the offense, defense, special teams and coaching of each squad.
Grossman vs. Cutler: Although both QBs have similar traits, namely big arms and a propensity for hot and cold streaks, Cutler wins this battle easily. His mobility and confidence alone give him the edge over Grossman.
Thomas Jones/Cedric Benson vs. Matt Forte/Chester Taylor: Forte and Taylor offer better blocking and receiving skills than their 2006 counterparts; but their run production has not matched that of Jones and Benson. Thus, the 2006 squad has the advantage in the running game.
2006 receiving corps vs. 2010 corps: In 2006, WR Bernard Berrain enjoyed a highly productive season, as he was Grossman’s favorite target for his trademark deep pass. However, the 2010 corps has much more diversity and depth in Knox, Hester and Bennett, none of whom are superstars, but they are solid targets for Cutler. The advantage goes to the 2010 Bears for receiving.
2006 offensive line vs. 2010 line: The 2006 Bears enjoyed excellent run production due to a strong offensive line that was anchored by Olin Kreutz, John Tait and Ruben Brown. The strong line of 2006 easily outperforms the makeshift 2010 line, which has struggled with pass protection all season.
Verdict: The offense of 2010, with its strong passing game behind the dynamic play of Jay Cutler, has the advantage over the 2006 Bears. Although the 2006 squad was excellent in September and October, the unit's production began declining as soon as opposing defenses figured out how to counter Grossman by generating pressure and cutting off the deep route.
2006 secondary vs. 2010 secondary: This match-up is a draw. In 2006, the Bears started CB Charles Tillman, CB Nathan Vasher, FS Daniael Manning and SS Chris Harris. The 2010 squad is composed of mostly the same personnel, minus Nathan Vasher.
2006 linebackers vs. 2010 linebackers: Both groups featured dominant play by Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. However, the additional of OLB Pisa Tinomisomoa has boosted the strength of the Bears run defense. Therefore, the 2010 corps enjoys an edge over their 2006 counterparts.
2006 defensive line vs. 2010 defensive line: At the beginning of the 2006 season, the Bears defensive line dominated offensive lines behind the pass rushing ability of a healthy DT Tommie Harris. But when Harris went down with an injury against the Vikings, the pass rush evaporated. The 2010 squad features greater depth and the superstar play of DE Julius Peppers. The advantage goes to the 2010 Bears.
Verdict: The Bears defense of 2010 has a slight advantage because of its improved defensive line play and the addition of Pisa Tinomisomoa.
Special Teams: The 2006 special teams outperform the 2010 Bears in two areas: punting and coverage. With Brendon Ayanbadejo in 2006, the Bears special teams consistently contained opposing return men. Meanwhile, Brad Maynard of 2006 possessed much better leg strength than he does in 2010.
Coaching: With Lovie Smith as the head coach, both the 2010 and 2006 squads have the same identity on defense. But on offense, the addition of Mike Martz has helped improve the Bears offensive production as the season progresses, whereas, under Ron Turner, the 2006 Bears offense began to sputter in the later half of the season. Martz’s creativity and ability to adapt game plans gives him a big edge over the predictable play calling of Ron Turner. Therefore, the advantage goes to the 2010 Bears.
The 2006 and 2010 Bears are remarkably similar teams. But, due to the addition of big name players like Jay Cutler and Julius Peppers, the 2010 squad has the edge over their 2006 counterparts.
Now, the only question is can the Bears of 2010 follow the lead of the 2006 squad and make it to the playoff and, possibly, beyond?
Question to readers: Which Bears team do you think is better?