Bears Relish Underdog Role

Chicago - As far as the national media pundits were concerned the Bears game against the Panthers was a done deal well before the opening kickoff. Citing a number of wins against weak opponents, the "experts" tended to give Chicago little credit for what they had accomplished thus far this season. But for Lance Briggs, that was exactly the way he wanted it.

"You know, I was getting tired of hearing that we were a mediocre team that only came up big against teams without a winning record. That's great motivation," said Briggs, who came away with 7 tackles against Carolina. "Hopefully this will put that talk to rest. But really, I could care less right now. What matters to me and to my teammates is what goes on in our locker room. We have always believed. If it takes others a little longer to come around, well I can't do much about that."

Briggs pushed aside any suggestions that the earlier Olin Kreutz-Fred Miller dustup might have given the Bears added incentive to turn attention away from any negative news about the team.

"Again, that was old news almost before the incident was over. It was an unfortunate thing to have happened, but we moved on from that immediately," Briggs said. "Public interest in the details seemed to linger, unnecessarily in my mind. We were all football all the time last week. We spent our time preparing for this game. Nothing else mattered."

Briggs credited the offense for taking advantage of opportunities presented to them by the defense. The Bears scored 10 points off two Nathan Vasher interceptions of Jake Delhomme.

"Psychologically that is vital to the success of our defense," Briggs said. "It puts pressure on Carolina to produce and resulted in some careless plays they wouldn't necessarily have tried if the pressure hadn't been on from the start of the game."

For Briggs, the result of the Bears defensive pressure could be seen in the amount of times Carolina went with max protect, leaving limited options in the passing game.

"Anytime the Panthers go with two receivers, we know they are in trouble," Briggs said. "And that's what we saw from them very early in the game. I said as much to Brian (Urlacher) after the first few series. We knew just how tough Carolina's offense could be. After all, they were picked to go to the Super Bowl this year by several magazines while the Bears were ranked dead last in the league. But hey, we watched the films and knew what we had to do."

For Briggs one of the most important changes this year has come in the decreased minutes that the defense has been out on the field. Although the time of possession has only gone up slightly over last year, the offense is putting together more extended drives.

"It's OK and we can handle it when we are working for much of the game," Briggs said. "That tended to happen quite a bit earlier in our season. But as Kyle matures and becomes more confident, they're holding onto the ball more. The running game is going well, which eats up the clock, and keeps us off the field. In a tough game having a fresh group of defensive players at the end is a definite advantage."

Briggs repeatedly mentioned the importance of a concerted team wide effort on both sides of the ball, something that had been lacking in previous seasons.

"You know, we feel within ourselves that no matter what comes on the field, we will find a way to win," Briggs said. "That's a complete change of attitude from previous years. Maybe Nathan Vasher will have a runback like that 108-yarder from last week. Alex (Brown), Brian (Urlacher) or Wale (Adewale Ogunleye) will get some sacks. That fact is you don't necessarily know beforehand where the help will come from, you just feel confident that it will be there when needed."

Although the Bears are at the top of the league in total defense, scoring defense and red zone efficiency, Briggs doesn't feel that the team has yet seen the respect that they should have earned by now.

"Hey, it's OK to jump on our bandwagon," Briggs said. "There's still plenty of room. I believe that we are only going to get better as the season wears on. But hang on. This could be a wild ride."

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