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How much doth a Bears fan love this defense? Let us count the ways.
For carrying the team to an intense 13-7 victory over the Lions before a national television audience Monday night. The win moved the Bears to 5-1, the third-best record in the NFL. More importantly, it knocked Detroit down to 2-4. The team from the Motor City is looking less and less likely to contend for a playoff spot.
For Brian Urlacher staying home and making a huge tackle on a potentially devastating third-down screen pass in the second half. The rest of the Bears' linemen and linebackers were chasing Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford more than 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
For fumbles recovered and even better, for fumbles forced. Not once but twice Charles Tillman stepped up in the first half and punched the ball right out of tight end Brandon Pettigrew's hands. Those fumbles went out of bounds but sports karma almost required that the ball start bouncing the Bears' way later in the game.
Sure enough the recoveries started pouring in, first on Lance Briggs' big strip of Mikel Leshoure in the red zone and later on Stefan Logan's botched punt reception (welcome back Zack! Bowman, that is, on the recovery) and Henry Melton's swatting of the ball out of Joique Hill's foolishly extended hands near the goal line.
Julius Peppers eventually emerged from the pile with the first one after about the longest delay to sort things out in the history of fumbles.
Bowman, who also had a great open-field tackle as the gunner in punt coverage late in the game, fell on the second. Urlacher grabbed the third. And after the Lions didn't lose possession after Logan's first muffed punt nor after Pettigrew's gaffes, they then gave it up on their next three fumbles/dropped punts.
For depth on the defensive line. Never was that more apparent than in the Lions' final possession, when Stafford was running for his life as fresh Bear tackles such as Melton and ends such as Peppers were hot on his tail. Stafford made a couple amazing throws to finally find a teammate in the end zone but it was too late for the Lions to do anything other than a desperation onside kick that didn't come close to working. And even if the kick had worked and the Lions had gone back on offense, the quarterback might have passed out if he'd had to try to roll out away from pressure one more time.
And now for a word about the Lions' defense: Is there any chance of a realignment of divisions at any time soon? Because if the Bears keep playing the Lions and especially their fearsome young defensive tackle twice a year you have to worry that Ndamukong Suh will simply break Jay Cutler in half at some point.
Of course, I wouldn't actually advocate the Bears and Lions being placed in separate divisions but it would be neat if at some point Suh would visit some violence on an offense and a quarterback other than the Bears and Jay Cutler. Might I suggest Aaron Rodgers and the Packers?
There was actually one way the Bears were very lucky in the midst of Suh's crushing, legal, late-second quarter hit on the home quarterback. As he was going down, Cutler initially extended his right elbow toward the ground to potentially break his fall a bit. Fortunately he ended up tucking that elbow in a bit just before contact with the turf. He suffered bruised ribs on the play but if his elbow had come down first, Cutler almost certainly would have separated his throwing shoulder.
* It looked like Kellen Davis wasn't paying attention at all as Dave Toub was wrapping up his comments to the group that went out to try to field that final onside kick. I was more than a little happy when I saw the ball bouncing toward Earl Bennett instead of the young tight end who also dropped what would have been about a 20-yard reception in the first half.
* Wasn't it fascinating that the event that caused the Bears to finally give up on Chris Williams last week was an injury at the gunner position?
It isn't a coincidence that this team is always strong on special teams. They do what it takes to maximize personnel in that unit and the latest example was when special teams ace Sherrick McManus suffered an injury a few weeks ago and was questionable for the Bears game on Monday. The Bears then went looking for another gunner (the guy who lines up wide on punts and is responsible for getting down the field the fastest in coverage and either making a tackle or at least helping to contain the return man) and didn't have to go far, finding good old Mr. Bowman, who was strong at gunner and cornerback for the Bears for four years before he signed with the Vikings in the off-season. The Vikings dropped him and the Bears were at-the-ready to bring him back.
When Bowman came onboard someone had to go and the Bears chose to cut ties with Williams, the former first-round pick who never was able to win the job at left tackle over the long term and wasn't good enough at guard to keep as a reserve.
* And finally, from the Just Imagine How Good It Will Be If They Learn To Play With A Little Discipline File: the Bears have won five of six despite having more penalties called against them than have been called against their opponents in each of their games so far.
In particular, offensive tackle Gabe Carimi needs to get a grip (actually he needs to get fewer grips, i.e. fewer holding calls). We are big fans of the "Jewish Hammer" in our household but Carimi must be close to the league lead in getting flagged.
Then again he was totally screwed on one of the holding calls. First, he was holding the guy who had jumped offsides a moment before (the refs called off-setting penalties) and second, it wasn't even a hold.
If refs are going to blow plays dead because rushing defenders are "unabated to the quarterback," they should blow them dead when tackles have to scramble to block defenders who would otherwise be unabated to the quarterback. And that is definitely enough for now.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on
Mondays Tuesdays. He welcomes your comments.