"It's so different from last year, I find it almost hard to describe," Vasher said after the 16-12 victory over Buffalo. "It's as if last season was a rehearsal with everybody learning their roles and getting ready individually. This year it has come together and we feel there's no reason we shouldn't have one of the more dominant defenses in the entire league. We were so ‘up' tonight that it felt like a regular season game to me."
Vasher cites several reasons for the turnaround: the health of the players, the positive relationship between players and coaches, and the sense that the Bears have something to prove.
"Injuries of course were huge for us last season. It was tough to see guys go down one after another, week after week, yet we still played pretty well. Now everybody is back in the lineup and feeling pretty strong."
The secret weapon of the unit is the chip on the collective shoulder of the team.
"Hey, don't think we didn't realize that other players were laughing at us last year. Believe me, that wasn't fun. Although our unit fared pretty well, we weren't nearly where we had expected or wanted to be by the end of the season. That isn't going to happen to us again anytime soon. We can and will dominate."
According to Vasher, the way the Bears plan to prove their point is through the resurrection of a traditional Monsters of the Midway type of intimidation.
"We want the opponents offense to be looking at us and thinking ‘which weapon are they going to use? How are they going to get us this time?"' Look at what happened tonight. There were some big sacks and some hard tackles. Plays were broken up on a regular basis. There was a real momentum going in our favor. For much of the game, we had the Bills offense taking a step back. That's the kind of foundation we are going to build on."
Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera will never admit to being fully satisfied with a performance, but he did have high praise for what his unit brought to the field against the Bills.
"They understand that we need to play hard and to play physical and give great effort and that's exactly what they've been doing for us," Rivera said. "We believe when we play hard and give the great effort the big plays will come. We'll make plays happen and that'll give us an opportunity to win football games."
The defense forced a turnover in the redzone and made the Bills settle for a field goal on another drive that started at the Chicago three-yard line.
"You get into a situation like that you've got to hold your composure, which they did, then you have to look for opportunities to make plays and that's what those guys did," Rivera said. "Coach (Lovie) Smith really believes that you preach turnovers, you've got to practice turnovers because you're going to get them. And that's exactly what we try to do with these guys and that's what they did tonight. They went out and did what we talked about."