Linebacker Brian Iwuh had hoped that his first start with the Bears would turn out better than it did, as Chicago was defeated 23-20 at the hands of the Seahawks. But now a league veteran, he has learned to take just about everything in stride.
"When I heard that Lance Briggs would not be active against Seattle due to his ankle injury, I knew that my chance to start had finally come," Iwuh said in the Soldier Field locker room after the game. "I had been taking notes any time I was on the sidelines and saw Lance play, so I knew what he brought to the game. I did my best to replicate his efforts. I'd hoped we'd get a win, but that didn't happen. So my job now will be to watch the film, take away the positives and try to improve what didn't go well."
Always the realist, Iwuh was well aware that he had some sizable shoes to fill when he heard Briggs would be out, but he felt up to the task.
"I've spent a lot of time with Lance since I joined the Bears," said Iwuh, who came to Chicago after impressing coaches in a May minicamp. "He has incredible technique, and his competitive nature is formidable. There is a reason he's been a Pro Bowler. My goal was to step up and play to the best of my ability. I'm not Lance, but I am Brian. I've been in the league for a while, and I felt well prepared to start. I think I acquitted myself well, although I certainly would feel better about things right now if we'd come away with the win."
Iwuh came to the Bears from Jacksonville, where he played mostly on special teams. While with the Jaguars, Iwuh played in 58 games but got just three starts, although his 61 special-team tackles put him third on the franchise's all-time list.
Proving that he was up to the task, Iwuh led the Bears with eight solo tackles and two assists in Week 6.
When asked if the transition from special teams to starting linebacker was a difficult one, Iwuh just smiled.
"If it was difficult for me, I certainly wouldn't admit that right now," the 6-0, 235-pounder said. "But actually, in my mind, football is football. You learn your position. You learn how to attack an offense and how to make tackles. Where the coaches end up putting you doesn't really make that much difference in the end."
Iwuh felt that Sunday's game was one the Bears could have and should have won, especially when running back Matt Forte got them off to a 7-0 lead on the game's first possession.
"It started out well with that early score by Forte," Iwuh said. "I thought that would get us rolling for the rest of the game."
"It was so early in the game to have that happen," he said. "In looking back right now, I think if we had countered by getting just one more big play right after Seattle scored, things would have turned out fine for us in the end. As it was, you could just feel the air come out of the stadium. The fans got really quiet, and I felt we were pressing a little to get back into the game."
The failure of the Bears' defense to get the Seahawks off the field on third down resulted in Chicago staying on the field for nearly 35 minutes, compared to Seattle's 25 minutes against the Bears' offense. Although not an issue early in the game, it became a factor as the final period began.
"It can't help but tire you out somewhat," Iwuh said. "Any time you are playing, you want to get the opposing offense out of there as quickly as possible. That just didn't happen today. The other factor, I think, was the lack of takeaways and turnovers. We drill on that for a considerable period of time every single day in practice. It's the foundation of our philosophy, turnovers and takeaways. You get the ball back and give our offense a chance. Today, we didn't do that, and I don't why."
Another issue from Iwuh's vantage point was the tempo of the game.
"We knew coming in that Seattle had just had their bye week," he said. "They were fresh, and it was very apparent from their first snap. It was an up-tempo game, and Hasselbeck was calling the shots. We tried everything we could think of to regain control, but nothing worked. They'd do a running play, then a passing play. Seattle was all over the field. We were playing catch-up. That's never a good situation to be in."
Iwuh also noted that some big plays by the Bears were called back by penalties, including a kickoff return by Danieal Manning that would have gone for an 89-yard score on special teams.
"That's the last thing you want to have happen," he said. "It lost us a few potential touchdowns and really destroyed any positive momentum."
Pisa Tinoisamoa, who lined up alongside Iwuh at linebacker, felt the new addition to the starting lineup put together a quality performance.
"It's never easy when you get your first start and you are accustomed to special teams," Tinoisamoa said. "Brian went out there and gave it his all from the first minute of play. I was impressed with his athleticism and his speed. There is a reason he's leading in tackles. The guy can be fierce. There are a lot of positives in the way he plays."
Iwuh hopes things will turn around for the team next week against the Redskins.
"We're still two weeks away from our bye, and I think some of us are tired." Iwuh said. "It will be good to get that short break. But between now and then, we realize that we have to put this game behind us and come back here ready to face another strong team next Sunday. There were a lot of good things happening out there for us today. I just wish that there had been more of them and that they had happened sooner."
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Beth Gorr has been covering the Chicago Bears for 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.
Iwuh Impresses Subbing for Briggs
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