Monsters of the Midway?

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For as long as I can remember the Chicago Bears have been known for their tenacious hard nose defense. Players like Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, Richard Dent and even more recently Brian Urlacher, have always given the Bears that edge and grit that has put fear in the hearts of opposing offenses players. These players helped the Bears earn the nickname of Monsters of the Midway. But looking at the current Bears defense last night, instead of Monsters of the Midway, Cubs of the Midway seemed more appropriate.

To be fair to this year’s Bears defense, it’s not like they just suddenly dropped of this year. In fact the Bears so-called elite defense has actually been average at best for years. Since 2000 the Chicago Bears defense has only ranked in the top 10 (in total yards per game) four times. Yes you read that correctly the vaunted Chicago defense has been a top ten defense for only four out of the past 14 seasons. Out of the four years that the Bears defense ranked in the top ten only once were they ranked in the top five. Correct me if I’m wrong but those are not elite stats as far as I’m concerned.

Even with these blatant facts, most of Chicago’s faithful will say that the Bears defense is basically a bend not break defense. Which means that they give up a lot of yards but in the clutch they get stops and don’t allow teams to score. Unfortunately this is also false, the Bears have been ranked in the top 10 in points allowed just five times since the turn of the century. If you are looking for a silver lining here, they were in the top three in each of those five years.

There is no denying that the Bears are an excellent playmaking defense. You can not turn a blind eye to their NFL leading 432 turnovers forced and 48 touchdowns scored since 2000. But with all that being said a lot of those stats are circumstantial. A majority of those stats came versus sub par opponents.

Against below average and even some average teams the Bears can depend on forcing a lot of turnovers and scoring points. But those aren’t the teams that the Bears will face when they are fighting for a playoff spot or when they’re competing in the playoffs.

Good teams don’t turn the ball over much. So in order to beat these teams you have to get stops and limit their yards, which the Bears simply can’t do.

If you look at this season alone when the Bears can’t force turnovers they struggle. Versus the Steelers on Monday night football the Bears nearly squandered a huge lead in the second half because they couldn’t create any turnovers. Ben Rothelisburger in turn dissected the defense and made this game way too close for comfort.

The same can be said for the Bears narrow victory in week two against the Vikings. Once Christian Ponder settled down in the second half and stopped turning the ball over the Bears defense was shredded and were a Jay Cutler led drive away from losing to the bottom feeding Vikings.

Looking at the Bears game last night against the 0-5 and now 0-6 Giants after those first two early turnovers, the Giants had two 80 yard drives a 91 yard drive and were in the middle of another long drive when the Bears opportunistic defense got a game ending tipped interception at their own 10 yard line.

While some of the reason for the Bears narrow decisions are on behalf of the Bears streaky and developing offense, at the end of the day you must get stops.

When the Bears faced two playoff contending teams, being the Lions and Saints, they lost both of those games because they couldn’t create turnovers. The Lions and Saints both went up and down the field on the Bears which gave them little to no chance of winning either game. I can give the defense a pass on the Lions game because the offense gave that one away, but there are no excuses for the game against the Saints.

 If the Bears ever want to be an elite defense again or win meaningful games in January and February they must do more than just create turnovers. They must get stops.


Follow Tramel Raggs on Twitter @raggs_no_riches
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