The debate concerning the "bump heard round the NFL" finally seems to dying down, and Bears coverage has returned to wondering what offense will show up against the Rams. However, the defense continues to be the steady hand guiding the Bears through troubled waters. Questions about Urlacher's knee, the aging defense, and safety and defensive line concerns have been swept under the rug thanks to Cutler vs
Webb the media and doubts about the new and improved Mike Tice offense, but the defense continues to perform at a high level, and may be showing signs of improvement this season.
The Bears will need to steady play from the defense against a Rams team that has shown the ability to play well offensively early this season. Sam Bradford has seemingly found new life under the tutelage of first-year offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, as Bradford has a 112.4 QB rating through two games and is completing over seventy percent of his passes. By comparison, Bradford's first two seasons in the NFL featured QB ratings of 76.5 and 70.5, respectively. In addition, the Rams finally seem to have a complement at running back for Stephen Jackson, although not the one they expected. Rookie second-round pick Isaiah Pead was supposed to be the speedy, scatback option to Jackson's hardnosed efficiency, but rookie seventh-round pick Daryl Richardson is only eight yards behind Jackson this year, on about half the carries. Those two have combined for 214 yards on the ground through two games, although the team has yet to score a rushing touchdown.
The Bears' defense, on the other hand, has continued to expound on the old "bend, don't break" philosophy of Lovie Smith; the Bears are middle of the pack when it comes to yardage allowed (14th overall), while ranking 21st in passing yardage allowed and ninth in rushing yards. I'd say that's a bit surprising since the sky was falling for many after the Packers game.
But don't forget that while the offense was abysmal against Green Bay, the defense held their own. The two touchdowns the Packers scored were the result of a trick special teams play (that was executed flawlessly) and after a Chicago turnover created a short field for the Packers' offense. The Colts scored 21 points, but the first was an interception return, and the last one was with the score 34-14. The only long touchdown drive the Bears defense has given up with the game on the line was a 6-play, 77-yard drive against the Colts in the second quarter.
The Bears are middle of the pack so far in yards per play allowed (5.2, 14th overall), yards per carry (3.9, 13th overall), and yards per pass attempt (7.1, 14th overall). But so far the team is excelling at some key areas, as well. Quarterbacks are completing 59% of their passing against Chicago, good for ninth overall, and their QB ratings against are 72.3, good for fifth in the league.
And, most importantly to the success of the "bend, don't break" philosophy is creating big plays on defense: sacks and forcing turnovers. The Bears have eight sacks through two games, tied for second in the NFL, and their four interceptions is tied for fifth. The pass rush help that Shea McClellin and Corey Wootton have provided off the bench has been great so far, and the inspired play of Tim Jennings is helping to alleviate many fears about how the young safeties would perform.
Among the many keys for the Bears' defense on Sunday will be limiting any big play opportunities by the Rams, something the Bears have done well so far. The longest run by a running back so far is eighteen yards by Donald Brown, and the Bears haven't allowed any pass to go for thirty or more yards yet. At this point last year, after two games, Michael Turner had ripped off 19 and 53 yard runs against Chicago, and the Bears had already given up three 30+ yard passes (including a Devery Henderson 79 yard touchdown).
Hit the poll to let us know how many points you think the Rams will score on Sunday, and the comments section to let us know who you think will have a big game for the Bears defense on Sunday.