The 7-3 Bears might not have the most exciting defense, and they certainly don't have the most exotic schemes, but they do have the NFL's best defense where it matters most: on the scoreboard.
No team has allowed fewer points per game than the Bears' 14.6, and seven times they've allowed 17 points or fewer. There is no smoke and mirrors, no gimmicks and no deception. The Bears aren't out-scheming opponents. They're simply lining up and beating them.
That defense will be tested Sunday when Michael Vick and the Eagles come to Soldier Field.
"We're playing a true Cover-2 defense right now," Bears GM Jerry Angelo said of the pass defense that features the safeties playing deep in pass protection. "There are no bells and whistles to it. It's pretty vanilla, pretty standard."
And pretty effective. While winning three straight to boost their record to 7-3, the Bears have allowed a total of 32 points, and they believe they're getting better as the season goes along.
"We're evolving every week," middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "We get better every week. Our defense doesn't change. People know where we're going to line up and what we're going to do. They know what coverage we're in. It doesn't matter. We play hard. We get 11 guys to the football.
"All season we've played harder and harder every week. There were some weeks where we were kind of lackadaisical, but we get to the football and that makes up for a lot of mistakes right there."
More often than not, the Chicago defense forces opponents into mistakes. No team has more takeaways than the Bears' 25, which includes 15 interceptions, two more than they had all of last season.
"Takeaways have been the key," Angelo said. "Our defense has always been predicated on that, so things are falling into place."
But the proliferation of picks is evidence that the Bears' "Rush Men," as defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli likes to call his linemen, have been getting pressure on quarterbacks.
"You're seeing quarterbacks pull it down," Angelo said. "You're seeing check-downs. Those are the things we want, and we've been getting that. We've been getting real good results on third down."
The Bears' offense enjoys a ringside seat while watching the defense impose its will on opponents, and before the shutout of the Dolphins, the entire team watched a highlight film of the defense's work.
"I looked at the O-line, and I said, 'Thank God we ain't playing those guys,'" Bears center Olin Kreutz said. "I have a lot of respect for them."
DE Julius Peppers
For the past seven weeks, the Bears have been in the top five in preventing third-down conversions. And on defense, too, they're on an incredible roll, having allowed just two conversions in the last 20 third-down plays.
BY THE NUMBERS
6 — The one area where the defense had been deficient, until Thursday night, was in sacks. Before getting a half-dozen against the Dolphins' Tyler Thigpen, the Bears had just three sacks in their previous four games, and only once before had they gotten more than two in a game. They'll have a much more difficult time getting to the Eagles' Vick this week.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
DE Julius Peppers had three sacks vs. the Dolphins, giving him five for the year. Despite the relatively low sack numbers, Peppers has been excellent all season, playing great all-around football. ...DE Israel Idonije got his team-best sixth sack vs. the Dolphins. He had eight sacks in his previous six NFL seasons. ... Urlacher, according to the Bears, became the leading tackler in franchise history Thursday night against the Dolphins. He was credited with four tackles, giving him a career total of 1,488, one more than Mike Singletary had. ... RB Matt Forte has averaged 4.0 yards per carry or better just twice in 10 games. ... WR Johnny Knox has 24 receptions in the past five games for exactly 400 yards but just one touchdown.
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