Funny how I post my opinion that I don't care for writers using catchy titles based on somebody's name or the team name, so I have found myself doing it just to prove a point. I promise I will get over it, hopefully??
I have been blogging about the Bears for about a year now, only a month on this site, and I dont' recall ever giving space to talk about the Bears superstar linebacker, Brian Urlacher. I look to remedy that today.
It's what doesn't show up on stat sheets that is more difficult to judge but perhaps ultimately more valuable. Rivera pointed out how Urlacher's presence alone at middle linebacker makes a difference every down. Asked how, he went to a dry-erase board, quickly drawing up the formation of the second-quarter play in which linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer intercepted Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks and returned the ball to the Bears immediately after a Kyle Orton turnover.
Hillenmeyer ran with tight end Lamont Hall across the field. Hall's route was designed to clear out the middle and hopefully take Urlacher with him. Fellow tight end Zach Hilton ran a deeper crossing route and was Brooks' primary read. Urlacher rolled deep and closed the window on Hilton. Brooks turned left and threw to his secondary read. Stride for stride with Hall, Hillenmeyer stepped in front for the interception.
"Brian had a game where his numbers didn't reflect what his impact was," said Rivera, erasing the play. "The numbers weren't indicative of the way he played, how he altered things. Just his presence in certain scenarios on the field dictates positive things to happen.
"When you talk about the plays he makes, people say, 'Oh, he's only got X amount of tackles, only has so many sacks, he doesn't have any interceptions.' Well, he's also in position to discourage a lot of plays. Just his visibility makes a difference."
The thing is, Urlacher wasn't supposed to be roaming the deep middle in the defense that was called. But he picked up a call by Saints center LeCharles Bentley and decided to drop off.
"I knew it was going to be pass before the play started," Urlacher said. "Hunter just made a great play."
The difference Urlacher is making for the Bears is stunning. They were 0-7 without him last season and are 10-7 with him since coach Lovie Smith arrived. The marquee playmaking position in Smith's Tampa Two defense is traditionally the weak-side linebacker, the spot where Tampa Bay's Derrick Brooks won Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2002. The Bears do it with Urlacher in the middle.
Smith said the biggest difference in the positions is that Urlacher is in position to blitz more and thus rack up more statistics. Piling up stats is probably what has helped 12 linebackers win the award, more than any other position.
"He's grown quite a bit in our system," Smith said. "And Brian is still getting better each day. We wouldn't trade him for anyone."
As a life long Bears fan, as I am sure most of you can attest, I obviously like defense and when asked about my favorite players names like Mike Singeltary, Bill George and Dick Butkus, that is ****** Butkus if you frequent message boards, so you know what I think about Urlacher.