Rush to judgement

It's a sore subject around Halas Hall when the defense's failure to get to opposing quarterbacks comes up -- and with good reason.

The Bears have just 6 sacks all season. Nine individuals in the league have more. The Bears' defensive line has a total of 4 sacks this season. Thirty-three players in the NFL have as many or more. At their current pace, the Bears will finish with 12 sacks. The fewest sacks they've ever had in a 16-game season are 28.

Assistant defensive line coach Richard Dent, the team's all-time sack leader, had 17.5 all by himself in 1984.

So it's no surprise that defensive coordinator Greg Blache gets a little testy when the lack of sacks is brought up, especially since Blache has always considered it an overrated statistic. He believes that consistently pressuring quarterbacks is more important than the occasional sack.

"Pick out any statistic you want, throw it around, stir it in a pot, cook it up and serve it with a lot of salt and seasoning on it to make it taste any way you want it to taste," Blache said. "Just add a different spice. I don't get into all of that. Move to a different question."

This season has been so bad for the Bears sack-wise that they lost one last week when the league ruled what was originally a sack by cornerback Todd McMillon to be a tackle for loss on a running play instead.

The four teams that reached the conference championship games last season ranked No. 2, No. 6, No. 10 and No. 12 in sack percentage. Of the top 10 teams in sack percentage last season, only two had losing records, and both were 7-9. But Blache refuses to overemphasize the sack.

"If sacks were important, that's what they would use to determine (who) wins a football game," he said. "Points are important. If sacks were important, they'd use that as a deciding factor (in) who wins and who loses. And they don't. The game has been around 100 years, and they haven't factored that in yet."

Defensive end Alex Brown and middle linebacker Brian Urlacher are tied for the team lead with 1.5 sacks, defensive ends Phillip Daniels and Michael Haynes each have 1, and safety Mike Green and tackle Bryan Robinson have one-half apiece. Last season Rosey Colvin had 10.5 sacks before departing for New England via free agency, Daniels had 5.5 and Urlacher 4.5.

Dent, who had 124.5 sacks as a Bear and 137.5 in his NFL career, fifth best in league history, made his mark as a pass rusher, but he knows there is a higher priority.

"Once you stop the run, then you get the right to rush the passer," Dent said. "If we don't stop the run, we don't get any right to rush the passer. Who wants to throw the ball when they can run the ball on you? That's the bottom line."

Early in the season, the Bears didn't stop the run, but they've improved significantly in that area in recent weeks and on the scoreboard. That should give them more sack opportunities.

"If we continue to get leads on teams, and they have to throw the ball to catch up, then we're going to get more sacks," Daniels said. "And also, if we continue to stop the run, we're going to get more sacks. The past three games we stopped the run, and we had opportunities, and we've been close."

The defense has done a better job this season of creating turnovers when opposing quarterbacks throw the ball away rather than accept a sack. The Bears have 8 interceptions, 1 less than all of last season.

Sunday, they'll face the Lions' Joey Harrington, who has done a tremendous job of avoiding sacks. Detroit is No. 1 in that category. But the Lions' offense is No. 31 in interceptions allowed.

"We watched the film and (coaches) said, 'These guys don't give up many sacks,'" Daniels said. "And one of the guys said, 'Yeah, but they give up a whole lot of interceptions.'"


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