Bears-Ravens: Beyond the Numbers

Two of the best defenses in the league will be at Soldier Field today, but the game will come down to which side capitalizes on the mistakes each offense is bound to make against stiff competition.

The defensive display should be impressive Sunday when the Bears and Ravens, both 2-3, meet at Soldier Field in a game that pits two similar opponents.

It's not just two of the top defenses in the NFL, but teams that also have weak offenses struggling for consistency.

The Ravens are No. 2 in total yards allowed; the Bears are No. 3. Offensively, the Bears are No. 30 in total yards, while the Ravens are 26th.

"Everything is going to come down to what defense plays the best, and which is going to make the least amount of mistakes," Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. "It's definitely going to be a defensive struggle."

The Ravens have given up just one field goal in two of their last three games, while the Bears have held three of their five opponents to less than 10 points.

But the Bears have also scored 10 points or less in three of their five games, and the Ravens have not scored more than 17 points in any game.

"We talk a lot about their defense, and I'm going to continue to talk a lot about our defense," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We don't think we're second fiddle to anyone.

"We know what they have, but I think they know what we have, too. It's two good defenses that are fairly evenly matched. We're playing at home, there's a lot at stake, matching records. It's going to be a good show. I'm anxious to see both those defenses play. I know how we'll play. We'll play well."

So far, the Bears defense is superior to the Ravens' in forcing turnovers, with a 13-6 advantage, including a 10-3 edge in interceptions. Both offenses are among the NFL's worst at giving the ball away. The Bears have lost it 14 times; the Ravens 13.

Chad Williams will make his first start at safety Sunday, when he replaces injured Ed Reed.

Even though he lacks the reputation of Reed, Williams has made his name for himself since being drafted in the sixth round in 2002. Playing around 20 snaps a game as the dime back, he earned the nickname "pound-for-pound," a takeoff from the boxing world that signifies the best regardless of weight division.

Williams has seven interceptions, three sacks, a blocked punt and a fumble recovery in his career. Three of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns, including one last season against the Dallas Cowboys' Vinny Testaverde that put the Ravens up by 21 points in the fourth quarter.

It was vintage Williams, who, much like Reed, always seems to be around the ball. In the Ravens' win against the Buffalo Bills last season, Williams deflected a pass to Deion Sanders, who returned it 48 yards for a touchdown, then intercepted another pass and returned it 93 yards to set up a field goal.

"Chad is very solid for us," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Since the day he's been here, he does what he's supposed to be doing, when he's supposed to be doing it, how he's supposed to be doing it."

But never have the Ravens asked so much of Williams as they will if Reed is out for an extended period. Williams acknowledges these next few games could shape the course of his career.

He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Reed and Will Demps have been the primary starters since 2002, and though Demps will be a free agent as well, the Ravens are expected to try to keep that tandem together.

If Williams is to get a decent contract offer on the free-agent market, he will have to prove he can handle being a full-time player. It is the only real blip on his resume.

"To get an opportunity to play as an every-down safety, it will be big," Williams said. "It will show people out there what I can do and prove to myself my worth. It will be big for me and my future, whatever it may be."

While his future looks a little unstable, Williams' past was certainly not. He grew up in a typical middle-class home where his father worked for the housing authority in Birmingham and his mother worked for the Department of Parks and Recreation.

"I grew up normal," Williams said. "It was nothing too tragic about my upbringing."

His role model was former NFL player and fellow Wenonah High School graduate Sam Shade, a fitting choice, since Williams' game mirrors the former Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins safety. Like Shade, Williams does not have great top-end speed, but thrives on instincts and physical play.

Unlike Shade, Williams has exceptional quickness within a confined space. It is the reason he has succeeded at a position a number of defensive coordinators dread having to go to in a game.

Ravens coordinators through the years have had no such worries. Now Williams must prove he can handle an even greater role of filling in for the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

"I'm a playmaker, but Ed is on a whole different level," Williams said. "You've got to take plays when they come. Ed does a great job of making plays, and hopefully I can make some plays if I'm in there."

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