Chicago Bears relying on defense again in NFC Championship Game

CHICAGO

For the defense of the Chicago Bears, the game plan to today's NFC Championship Game is fairly simple.

The Bears have to stop Green Bay running back James Starks. They have to rush quarterback Aaron Rodgers. They have to make sure they don't give up a big play to Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.

Oh, and between every series, they have to drag their offense along. Again.

In Chicago, a linebacker of a city, this is how it has always been. The defense plays well or the franchise shuts down for the season. There is no other option.

It was that way back in 1963, when a couple of Hall of Famers in Doug Atkins and Bill George put the nasty in the Chicago defense and allowed a rather pedestrian quarterback named Bill Wade to win an NFL championship.

It was that way back in 1985, when another pair of Hall of Famers, Mike Singletary and Dan Hampton, were in charge of the bruises and carried a punky quarterback named Jim McMahon to win the Super Bowl.

It was that way back in 2006, when Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs were mean enough to get a quarterback named Rex Grossman to the Super Bowl (before losing to the Colts).

And so here the Bears are again, trying to be monstrous in the midway. This time, the quarterback who could use a push is Jay Cutler. This time, the offense in question was ranked 30th in the NFL. This time, like last time and the time before and the time before that, there is more pressure on the Bears defense than on any unit left in the playoffs.

Either it is good or the Bears are gone.

Granted, it is not as if Chicago has the best defense in the playoffs. Frankly, it gave up more yardage than any of the other three teams still standing. If need be, however, the Packers are good enough to win on offense. The Steelers, too. Even the Jets.

Consider this: The last time the Bears played the Packers, Chicago gave up only one touchdown. And lost.

Consider this: Today, the Bears have to shut down the best quarterback in the playoffs (Rodgers has a 134.5 rating), the best running back (Starks is averaging 94.5 yards per game) and the two top receivers left (Jennings and Driver have 20 catches between them). That's a lot of bricks to lay before quitting time.

Consider this: Cutler. Granted, he had a good game against the Seahawks, but in two games against the Packers this year, he threw three interceptions and only one touchdown.

By now, that probably shouldn't surprise anyone. In their better years, the Bears have usually had to shut down potent offenses to survive. It is a town of Dick Butkus and Richard Dent and Wilber Marshall and Atkins and George and Singletary and Hampton and Buddy Ryan and George Allen.

Now, you can add Briggs to that list. When he's healthy, Tommie Harris. And, as much as anyone, Julius Peppers, the rare free agent who signs a huge contract and looks like a bargain afterward. And, of course, Urlacher.

If defense is the staple of the Bears' franchise, then the middle linebacker position is the staple of the defense. If Urlacher can get to another Super Bowl, the days when critics suggested he was overrated will be over, and the all-time ratings will begin.

"It's hard to measure somebody," said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, a former Bucs assistant. "You look at his stats, which obviously are awesome — (Bears) all-time leading tackles and all those things. He's got a knack for the big play. He just has a way about him. You've seen it all year. He stacks up with anybody in the league like that.

"As you know, this man, in our system, he's unparalleled in terms of his leadership and his knowledge of our system. Those guys look to him for that leadership, not just strong, loud, good player, but his adjustments on game day, the checks, he's got it all. He's the full package. That, to me, is what really separates him from others."

Some defenses beat you with schemes, and some beat you with speed, and some beat you with trickery.

Not the Bears. Over the years, they have traded bruises until the opposing team folds. They have snapped and snarled their way through the bad weather and the bad turf.

Today, if the Bears are to survive, that won't change.

"That's who we are," Marinelli said. "We believe in our basic philosophy of eventually it's going to come down to me beating the guy across, a one-on-one battle no matter how you get in it. There is only so much you can do.

"The teams who have a philosophy just blitzing every snap; eventually, though, as you blitz you are going to have to beat someone to get there most of the time. You are not going to have a free guy. If you have a free guy, it's someone on the outside. So it still comes down to a one-on-one football game.

"For us, it's the same situation. We just do it a little bit differently, but in the end, as our players said, we're not going to change a whole lot. For the most part, you are going to know what we are going to do, and we are going to try to out-execute you."

In other words, they have to overcome the elements and the odds and, if you're counting, two quarterbacks.

Is this bunch monstrous enough?

Either that or the Bears will pack it in.

Chicago Bears relying on defense again in NFC Championship Game 01/22/11 [Last modified: Sunday, January 23, 2011 1:04pm]

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