Change in Philosophy

Lake Forest - Former Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache would tell anyone who asked that sacks don't matter, and last year's team played that way, finishing dead last in the league with a franchise-record low of 18.

After just eight games this season, the Bears have 21 sacks, seventh best in the NFL.

To new defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and head coach Lovie Smith, sacks are important; essential to the success of the defense.

"There's different ways you play defense," Smith said. "Some teams put a big emphasis on sacks. We do. We think it's a big part of being an aggressive defense and causing turnovers. I don't really know what happened last year. I just know it's something we put a premium on. It all starts up front with our defensive line. The guys are young and they're getting better weekly, (which) is big for us."

Rivera believes in the blitz more than a lot of defensive coordinators. He's called for blitzes more frequently in the past two weeks and coincidentally the Bears have piled up 10 sacks.

"The difference is the philosophy; the attitude," Rivera said. "It comes from coach Smith, who had it from the very beginning. He preached that we were going to be a faster football team, and I think being a fast football team also comes down to playing hard all the time. It comes down to being more athletic. And if you look at it I think our defensive line as a whole is more athletic."

No one has been a bigger component in the Bears' pass rush than right end Alex Brown. The 2002 fourth-round draft pick was last year's team leader with a modest 5 1/2 sacks. After Brown, no other Bear had more than the 2 1/2 sacks by middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and defensive end Phillip Daniels.

Brown already has five sacks at the halfway point after getting four last week, falling just short of Richard Dent's team record of 4 1/2. Because last year's AFC sack leader Adewale Ogunleye at left end demands the attention of opposing offenses, Brown has faced mostly one-on-one situations, which he has been defeating on a regular basis.

"As he has told me a few times, he had five sacks against Tennessee (as a sophomore at Florida), so it's not like he all of the sudden has become a pass rusher," Smith said. "He's been there. He's gone through in the system, he's a good player and now he's starting to hopefully peak at the right time."

Urlacher already has four sacks and is on pace to match his best single-season total of eight.

"Some of the guys that we have blitzing are athletic," Rivera said. "You blitz a Brian Urlacher or a Lance Briggs, you blitz a Jerry Azumah, a Mike Green or a Todd Johnson, there's a chance for something good to happen. There's a chance for bad things to happen as well, but we've been fortunate. We've had a lot of good things that have happened."

Bear Report Top Stories