By Bob LeGere Sure, the Bears have put up some impressive defensive numbers this season, but they’re not satisfied heading into Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills in Toronto.
No defense has allowed fewer points than the Bears’ 98, an average of just 14.0 per game, and they’re also No. 1 at preventing third-down conversions.
The Bears’ defense is No. 5 in rushing yards and No. 6 in total yards and average gain per pass allowed.
Still, there’s room for improvement.
“Everywhere,” defensive end Julius Peppers said. “Every position. Every man can get better. I think that’s what we should try to do.”
Peppers certainly can improve his sack numbers. He’s got just 2 in his first seven games as a Bear.
But his value to the team is better illustrated by more subtle contributions, such as forcing the quarterback to throw early and opening up opportunities for other players by constantly attracting double-team attention.
Like Peppers, linebacker Lance Briggs is not content to rest on what the defense has accomplished so far.
“We’ve done a lot of good things, a lot of things that we wanted to do,” Briggs said. “But you can’t be satisfied if you play great defense and don’t win the game, or if you play good defense for 3½ quarters and at the end of the game you give up some big runs.”
The Bears allowed the New York Giants 142 of their 189 rushing yards in the second half in Week 4, and the Washington Redskins got 90 of their 121 rushing yards after halftime in Week 7.
“We have to finish games, no matter the situation, no matter what’s going on in the games, especially the games that we’re in,” Briggs said.
“We have to make plays, make the plays that put us ahead. Put our offense and our special teams in position to get in the end zone, and we need to get in the end zone ourselves.”
The defense recorded its first touchdown of the 2010 season against the Redskins, when D.J. More returned an interception 54 yards, but the 2008 team had 3 defensive touchdowns, 1 each by Briggs, Charles Tillman and Zack Bowman, as did the ’06 team.
“We’re not satisfied,” Urlacher said. “We’re 4-3. We can win more games. We can play better and make more big plays, get more takeaways, sacks, fumbles, touchdowns.
“We need to do more of that, and we’re capable of doing that. We know what we’re capable of doing as a defensive team.”
With Rod Marinelli in his first year as defensive coordinator, the Bears are on pace to allow 109 fewer points than they did last season.
That’s even if you figure in the 1 defensive touchdown and 1 safety the offense has allowed, plus the 1 return touchdown special teams permitted.
“It starts with Rod Marinelli,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “He’s done a great job, and the rest of the defensive staff. The guys have bought into it. We have our players healthy right now. We have good players who are disciplined.
“We haven’t peaked by any means yet. We needed to finish a couple games. But it is about points. Some of the areas we place a lot of importance on points allowed, third downs, taking the ball away the guys have done a great job with it.”
Only four teams have more takeaways this year than the Bears’ 17. That includes a team-high 3 interceptions by Moore, 2 picks and a fumble recovery by Tillman, who has also forced 3 fumbles, and 1 pick and 2 fumble recoveries by Urlacher.
Until the offense starts functioning more efficiently, the defense will have to play at the same high level or better to preserve playoff hopes, and it won’t be easy with a difficult second-half schedule.
“Minnesota twice, the Jets, Patriots, Bills, and Green Bay again,” Urlacher said. “There are no easy games, so it’s going to be tough for us.”
Follow Bob LeGere’s Bears reports via Twitter @BobLeGere and his blog, Bear Essentials, at DailyHerald.com.