In my best Rodney Dangerfield voice: I tell ya'! The Chicago Bears get no respect. They get no respect at all. They're sitting on 7-3 and they still get no respect. They were facing a mediocre Miami Dolphins with a starting quarterback who only had one win in his whole life and whose name sounded like Pigpen, and they were still underdogs. I'm tellin' ya! They get no respect at all! End Rodney Dangerfield voice.
So here's the question: Do they deserve any? It's a valid question. Yes, there are some very appropriate reasons to doubt them. After all, they aren't exactly blowing away the elite teams in the NFL. Apart from the Packers, their best win of the year was...well...last night against the Miami Dolphins, who were playing with a quarterback who had one win in his whole life and whose name sounded like Pigpen (although that doesn't necessarily mean he's bad—the name part any way. The one win in his whole life, well that's another thing.)
Still, it's the NFL and 7-3 is a pretty good record. In fact, at this moment it's the second best record in the NFC. Part of that is because they've played that one extra game. However, by the end of the weekend they could be tied for the best record in the NFC if Atlanta loses, so that particular sword cuts both ways.
Why don't they get any respect? In part it probably has something to do with the way their offense has played. I haven't seen that many sacks since I went to the supermarket. It was horrible. It was almost to the point that the Giants were about to start feeling guilty. That is until they knocked Jay Cutler out of the game by just plain knocking him out. Then Todd Collins came in and Todd played bad enough that it would have made a trade for Tyler Thigpen look like a genius move. Overall though, Cutler hasn't played that badly. His numbers are slightly better than those of Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets, and no one is questioning the validity of the Jets Super Bowl hopes.
There is the running game, which is somewhere between non-existent and downright pathetic. Even against the lowly Buffalo Bills, owners of the league's worst rush defense, the Bears only "amassed" a whopping 105 yards. That game did mark a slight change though. At least the Bears tried to run the ball. The next week, against the Vikings they tried again, and had a little more success, gaining 138 yards. Minnesota is not as great against the run as they used to be, but they're still eighth in the NFL. Then, last night they gained 139 yards and ran more rushing plays than passing plays. They also dominated the clock, keeping the ball for over 37 minutes.
So no, the Bears are not "the greatest show on turf," even if they do have Mike Martz running the show, but they are an improving offense. More importantly they are no longer trying to be that. As a result, and because of changes made to the offensive line, they've started to come around with their line. They've only yield five sacks in those three games. That's still not going to make anyone say, "Wow!" but it's not eight sacks in a half.
So, no, they aren't going to throw out an offense that stands up and demands respect. On scoring offense they're still near the bottom of the league, and last night's 16 points wasn't exactly a Vick-like explosion that is going to have the Hall of Fame asking for Jay Cutler's jersey anytime soon.
But the Chicago Bears aren't 7-3 because of their offense. They have the best defense in the NFL right now, and because of that they deserve a little respect. Let me spell it out for you. The Bears are first in scoring defense with 14.6 points allowed. They are fourth in yards against with 290.4, second in rushing yards against with 78, they are 11th against the pass (the weakest part). They are also first in the NFL with forced turnovers at 29 (the Giants with 24 are second). In short, they have a very, very good defense.
It's not smoke and mirrors on defense, either. They don't run a lot of gimmick schemes or send in a lot of complex blitzes that are going to open them up to get burned. They essentially run a straight forward defense where there guys just beat the other guys. When you've got three potential Hall of Fame candidates in Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers and Lance Briggs, that's going to happen from time to time. Between those three players you have 16 Pro Bowl selections and two members of the all decade team.
Then you factor in the fact that they have some pretty good players on their special teams. Robbie Gould is sixth all time in the history of the NFL with his 85.07 percent field goal percentage. Their punter, Brad Maynerd, is the all time leader for punts downed inside the 20 with 400, and then there's Devin Hester, who seems to have rediscovered his mojo and tied the career record for combined kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns. In short, on special teams, the Bears are among the elite as well.
So no, their offense might not be anything keeping defenses awake and sweating at night, but it's improving. The other two-thirds of the football team are among the best in the NFL, though, and that's why the Bears are 7-3. It's not just their competition. Don't be surprised if they win a few more, and don't be surprised if you see them in the playoffs. Who knows; if they get that far they just might get a little respect.