The Chicago Bears defense is having one of the best seasons in the past 25 years of the franchise. Week in and week out this year, Chicago has routinely dismantled opposing offenses, pressuring the quarterback, forcing turnovers and scoring touchdowns.
The Bears currently rank second in the NFL in points allowed (15.0), sixth against the run (88.0), first in total takeaways (28), first in turnover differential (+16) and third in sacks (25). They have also returned seven interceptions for touchdowns, the most in franchise history in a single season. The NFL record for interception return TDs is nine. Opponents are converting just 33.0 percent on third downs, third best in the league.
The numbers add up to a 7-1 record for the Bears, despite an offense that has been wildly inconsistent this season. Most believe if the offense ever hits its stride, Chicago's defense is good enough to carry the club to its second ever championship.
The first and only Super Bowl victory for Chicago came in 1985 behind arguably the greatest defense in NFL annals. The 1985 team, led by defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, was a much different system schematically than Lovie Smith's version. Ryan's 46 defense relied on consistent pressure through non-stop blitzing, attacking quarterbacks relentlessly and beating them into submission. It was truly a sight to watch, as most opposing offenses wilted under Ryan's kitchen-sink approach.
Today's Bears run a much simpler, borderline generic, defense that isn't reliant on the blitz. Instead, coordinator Rod Marinelli likes to limit the deep pass by dropping two deep safeties, giving up the underneath pass and forcing opposing offenses to dink and dunk down the field. The club likes to blitz when the situation presents itself but the unit's success isn't dependant upon bringing extra rushers.
Yet, fundamentally, the two defenses aren't much different. Both relied on pressuring the quarterback and forcing turnovers. The route each takes to get there is very different but the goal is the same, as are the results.
Here is a comparison of the 1985 defense and the 2012 defense through eight games:
Points allowed per game
1985 - 14.3
2012 - 15.0
Yards allowed per game
1985 - 305.6
2012 - 318.1
1985 – 32
2012 – 25
1985 – 21
2012 – 17
1985 – 29
2012 – 28
1985 – 2
2012 – 7
As you can see, the two teams are very similar numbers-wise at the midpoints of their respective seasons. While it's blasphemous in Chicago to even suggest another defense could compare to the 1985 team, the numbers show the 2012 squad is very close in overall production.
It's far too early to crown this year's team as anything more than a group that has started immensely strong. If they win a championship, then the comparisons between the two defenses can be made in earnest.
Yet through eight weeks this season, Chicago's defense has proven that they have the potential to be as dominant as the group that brought home the only Super Bowl title in Bears history.
Follow me on Twitter: @BearReport
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.