The Bears defense will spend a good portion of its bye week resting, but not resting on its laurels.
While the group has played fairly well so far – tied for 11th in points allowed, 14th in yards allowed and fifth in sacks – no one is satisfied.
"It's still early," said defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, who is second in the NFC with 4.5 sacks. "We've got a lot to improve on. We can't get too excited about the way we've played because we've still got 12 games to go. 3-1 doesn't do anything for you."
The 3-1 Bears trail the first-place, 4-0 Vikings by a game in the NFC North. Asked for his early evaluation, coach Lovie Smith said he has been pleased with some aspects of the defense's play, but disappointed in other areas.
"I think we've played at a 3-1 pace," Smith said. "I'm not trying to run around the question, but that's saying that we're not where we need to be, especially with takeaways. I'm disappointed with the takeaways but pleased at how hard they've played, how they've finished games. We're going to be a good football team. We're a good defense but we can take another step, and that's what we'll do this second quarter [of the season]."
Smith has stressed the importance of defensive takeaways since he came to Chicago, but the Bears have just six so far, which is tied for 14th in the NFL and leaves them dead even in the turnover-takeaway department. Even in last season's non-playoff campaign, the Bears were plus-5.
DE Adewale Ogunleye
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel
Still, there are some bright spots.
"A lot of young guys have come in, like Nick Roach and Jamar Williams," Ogunleye said. "And you're seeing Mark Anderson playing better. These young guys are coming in and doing a really good job."
The Bears have had their share of injuries, but they haven't been hurt that badly by the losses.
"A lot of things didn't happen the way we wanted them to happen with all the injuries," defensive tackle Tommie Harris said. "[The bye] is perfect for us right now to get everybody back. The games have been ugly. We're winning ugly, but it's a win. When you look at a W, you don't see next to it, 'Well, these guys had 300 yards in the first half.' It's a W, or it's an L. We have three Ws right now, and we plan on building on that and constantly helping this organization get better and get to the Super Bowl."
NEWS AND NOTES
Although there remains some debate as to whether Johnny Knox dropped the football just before or just after crossing the goal line on his 102-yard kickoff-return TD Sunday, he was nevertheless named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
"I looked at it, and it was kind of close," Knox said. "I'll try to learn from it. Next time, if I get the opportunity to score, I'll just try to hold on to it a little bit longer."
Knox's big return was the second longest in team history, behind only a 103-yarder by Hall of Famer Gale Sayers on Sept. 17, 1967. His three kickoff returns totaled 147 yards, and he leads the NFL with a 35.8-yard average.
Knox said he's seen replays of his return on ESPN, which spot shadowed ball boy Darryl Magee running nearly stride for stride with him along the sideline in order to retrieve the ball after the play.
"I talked to him about it," Knox said of the University of Illinois student from north suburban Waukegan. "We got a laugh out of it. He's pretty fast." ...
Quarterback Jay Cutler said there wasn't a lot of thought that went into his 5-yard touchdown run that ended with him whirly-birding into the end zone Sunday after a hit by linebacker Julian Peterson.
"I wasn't really thinking that much," Cutler said. "I wanted to get it to [Desmond Clark], but the corner kept dropping. I didn't really have a lot of options. When we get down there, we've got to take advantage of those opportunities. We've got to get the ball in the end zone. We're going to do whatever it takes."
Asked if he had seen the replay, Cutler said, "Twice."
Cutler said he received no negative feedback from the coaching staff after the dangerous play.
"As long as you get seven [points] and walk away," he said, "they're not going to complain too much."
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said he experienced a few anxious moments when Cutler went airborne.
"He's doing everything he can to win," Turner said, "and plays like that are why the guys respect him so much. But no question about it, you take a deep breath and then a sigh of relief when you see him stand up and he's OK."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"I'm getting tired of getting hit first and then reacting. It's good we're finishing strong. But against a really, really good team, it might be hard. A team might have a really good defense and make our offense struggle a little bit, and it might be hard for us. You have to get going. We have to jump on teams faster." – DE Adewale Ogunleye on how the Bears have trailed in all four of their games, three of which they've won.
Agree? Disagree? Let your voice be heard on our message board RIGHT HERE
Bear Report: The only publication exclusively dedicated to your Chicago Bears.