AL HAMNIK: Bears' defense hasn't reached 'monster' status yet

2012-10-27T18:00:00Z 2012-10-28T20:37:04Z AL HAMNIK: Bears' defense hasn't reached 'monster' status yetAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
October 27, 2012 6:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Bears' wins are comical when their defense is at the wheel and running over anyone in the way.

Comical because when the locker room opens, media types all rush in to get a tasty sound bite from Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman.

Despite a 5-1 record and four-game win streak, the three veterans would rather be clipping their toe nails than answering the same tired questions.

How good can this defense be?

Equal to the 2006 Super Bowl year?

Consistent enough to carry a struggling offense?

Or is it too old, like some are saying, to perform at a high level deep in the playoffs?

The verdict won't be in until the final whistle blows.

To the Bears' credit, there is no yapping, no chest thumping, no Super Bowl talk, just a business-as-usual approach players have had since Lovie Smith became head coach in 2004.

It won't change today, whether they double the score on poor Carolina or win 6-3.

But you must admit, that defense sends a rush through any fan with its league-leading 21 takeaways and league-low 13 points allowed per game.

"Same thing we've been doing all year. We play disciplined and get some takeaways," Urlacher said.

The ageless Tillman, king of the "ball punch," held Lions' All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson to three catches for 34 yards Monday night  -- he was targeted 11 times -- and will have his hands full again today against Steve Smith.

"I don't know how (Tillman) does it," Urlacher said. "Calvin Johnson is a big-time receiver. 'Peanut' is a big-time corner. I'm glad he plays for us."

Carolina coach and former Bear Ron Rivera believes the current defense could be better, deeper, than in 2006 when Chicago made it to the Super Bowl.

Maybe. The Bears allowed 255 points that 13-3 season. At their current pace and barring injuries, they'll finish 2012 with 208 points.

"You never know what's going to happen," Urlacher warned. "We're 5-1. We're in the lead for the division right now. We've got a long way to go, though, with four more division games and Minnesota twice."

Opposing offenses need not study hours and hours of film on the Bears' D. The battle plan never changes. They come at you like high tide.

"The thing we do is we run to the football," Urlacher said, not giving away any company secrets. "If you watch our defense, we got 11 guys running to the football every play.

"It's not like that in the league. When the football is thrown, other D-linemen stop and watch. Ours turn and run. Around here, it's a culture. You don't run to the football, you're not going to play."

The Bears also know they must play smart on both sides of the ball, avoiding turnovers and stupid penalties. Carolina may be 1-5, but four of its losses have been by six points or less.

Trap game. That's all Julius Peppers needs to know.

"Are we the best defense? That's for you guys to talk about," he said. "We just try to get better each week.

"We have a close group of guys. We all love each other. It makes you play and practice harder when you care about the guy next to you."

Foxholes vary. This one happens to be blue and orange.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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