With so much off season talk centering around the new look Chicago Bears offense, the defense was kind of an afterthought. Sure every preseason article gave us the lazy 'they aren't getting any younger' line and some gave the occasional concern for Brian Urlacher's knee, but for the most part the talk was all about Mike Tice's new offense. Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and company would set the Chicago sports world on fire.
Bears fans were excited for the hype and for the team to finally have a passing game to compete in the new pass happy NFL. But so far through three games the offense hasn't found it's consistency, while the defense has been playing at a top ten level. Sam said it best yesterday, New season: same old Bears. And that's OK. It really is. It's a winning formula that Lovie Smith is familiar with, but the difference this year is the Bears really do have some play makers on offense. Those guys on O will gel at some point, but a funny thing has happened while we're all waiting for the offense to come around, the young Bear defenders are starting to make their mark.
The Bears do have a core group of defenders over 30 years of age, but that's not the whole story. Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, Corey Wootton, Amobi Okoye, and Shea McClellin are all young defensive linemen fitting nicely into the rotation and have accounted for 8 of the Bears 14 sacks. With the Bears able to mix in their young fresh legs, it'll help out Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije (2.5 sacks a piece) in the long run. The Bears have been looking for that impactful 3rd DE for a few years now, but it seems they did that one better.
The Bears need the front four to generate pressure in order for their Tampa 2 system to be effective. If the Bears get get to the QB without having to constantly blitz, they can sit back in their numerous zone looks and make a QB think about where to go with the ball while avoiding the Chicago rush men coming to put him down. This defense might be better than the D that Lovie Smith rode to the Super Bowl in 2006.
But the youth isn't just being served on the defensive line.
Defensive backs Chris Conte, Major Wright, and Tim Jennings (all under 30 yrs old) have accounted for all 6 interceptions on the season, and Jennings is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Nickle back, and fellow youngster, D.J. Moore is playing some solid football too.
The Chicago Bears are 6th in total yards allowed, 6th in passing yards allowed, and 6th in rushing yards allowed. They are number one in sacks, 2nd in interceptions, and 5th in takeaways. They are 2nd in allowing teams to convert 3rd down plays with 24% and quarterbacks have amassed a 62.1 QB rating against them, good for 3rd best in the NFL.
Last week the Bears offense coasted behind their dominant D. Watching the game I never felt the Rams were a serious threat, and this is a young Rams offense that was playing well the first two weeks of the season. St. Louis was 1-1 narrowly losing week 1 to Detroit 27-23, and defeating the Redskins 31-28 in week 2. Against Washington the Rams offense put up 452 total net yards, in week 3 against Chicago they were held to 160.
This week's Monday Night match up against Dallas will be a good test for the Bears defense. The Cowboys have a talented group of position players on offense, but they do have some o-line problems. If Chicago can fluster Tony Romo he'll turn it over. I think another multiple sack and multiple turnover game could be in the cards for the Chicago Bears defense.