Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A Message to the N.F.L.: Beware of the Bears ; Chicago's Defense Is Finer Than Ever, Racking Up Touchdowns on Turnovers

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

A Message to the N.F.L.: Beware of the Bears ; Chicago's Defense Is Finer Than Ever, Racking Up Touchdowns on Turnovers

Article excerpt

Chicago has always had top-notch defenses, but this year it has taken it to a whole new level.

The Chicago Bears have the best defense and special teams in the National Football League, and if they can get enough out of their offense, they may end their Super Bowl drought. If you feel as if you have read that a few times before, you are right. Every few seasons in the Brian Urlacher era, the Bears seem to take the league by storm with a dominant defense and special teams.

Consider:

- The 2001 Bears were not very good. They could not run the ball (27th in yards per carry) and were not effective through the air (Jim Miller, Marty Booker and Dez White formed the cornerstone of the passing attack). Defensively, the Bears ranked an unimpressive 15th in yards allowed but led the league in points allowed.

- Four years later, with Lovie Smith in charge, Chicago led the league in points allowed, net yards per pass allowed and interceptions returned for a touchdown, while ranking second in yards allowed. But Chicago went only 11-5. The offense was terrible; the rookie Kyle Orton submarined the team to a bottom-five ranking in yards, net yards per pass and turnovers.

- The next year was perhaps the best season since 1985 for the Bears. In 2006, Chicago went 13-3 and went back to the Super Bowl with a familiar formula. The defense ranked in the top five in points allowed, yards allowed and first downs allowed, and it ranked first in turnovers forced and net yards per pass allowed. Chicago also led the league with eight return scores; in addition to their three defensive touchdowns, the Bears added a new weapon that year: Devin Hester. In 2006, Hester became the first player to score three touchdowns on punt returns and return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same season. The Bears were able to ride their defense and special teams to the Super Bowl, where they lost to Indianapolis.

- In 2010, Chicago was back at it again, ranking in the top five in both points allowed and turnovers forced, while staying tough against both the pass and the run. The Bears excelled again in the fourth quarter: Half their regular-season games were decided by 5 points or fewer, with Chicago winning six of eight games. But in the National Football Conference championship game, the Green Bay Packers ended the Bears' season, 21-14.

The 2012 Bears stand as the next in a long line of Bears teams that wildly exceeded expectations, thanks to a great defense. Chicago ranks second in points allowed and rushing yards allowed, and fifth in net yards per pass allowed. Chicago leads the league in turnovers forced and red zone defense. But the defense this year is doing things no other Bears defense -- or any other N.F.L. defense, for that matter -- has ever done.

Chicago has returned seven interceptions for touchdowns in eight games. …

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