It's easy to overlook how well the Bears' defense has played for most of the season, especially as the team was losing three of four heading into this weekend's bye.
But while the offense has struggled mightily with everything from converting third downs to protecting the quarterback to punching the ball into the end zone from a yard away, the defense has more than held its own. The Bears have allowed 17 points or less in five of their seven games.
"The numbers are good," coach Lovie Smith said. "It's always good to be up there in total yardage (the Bears are No. 5), but we don't look at that a lot. We look at scoring defense. We're right at the top (No. 2), third downs (No. 1), taking the ball away (tied for No. 2). The guys have played hard and played well throughout. I'm pretty pleased with where we are headed into this next phase."
While new offensive coordinator Mike Martz has gotten most of the publicity, most of it negative, new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has quietly gone about leading a group that has performed consistently throughout the first seven weeks.
"We've been very, very solid," Marinelli said. "We're playing at a very high level. The consistency is what's pleased us. Down in and down out, just playing the snap and playing together as a team, the discipline, those things have been really good. So we just have to maintain that."
Defensive end Julius Peppers was the big-ticket offseason purchase for the defense, and while he has just two sacks, he has been a presence in most games and created opportunities for other players, such as defensive end Israel Idonije, who already has a career-best 4.5 sacks.
"Our system is all based on teamwork," Marinelli said. "Sometimes you have to give up an opportunity to make a play to allow a teammate to make a play, and that's the discipline we're looking for. Everything I've seen on tape they have [responded to that]. The consistency, the fundamentals, all the details it takes to play our system and the effort, and teamwork."
Marinelli is fairly new to play-calling, but there haven't been any noticeable growing pains.
"I've had a pretty good feel for it, but the most important thing is that most calls work when they're well-executed," he said. "That's the coach and the player working together, day-to-day drill work and fundamentals. It's something I enjoy."
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