"We definitely have a better team than we had in 2001, there's no doubt about it," said Brown, who led that team with five interceptions, including two overtime game-winners. "In 2001, I don't think we had the personnel to match up with some teams, but now we have the personnel to match up with (any) team when we play the way we're capable of playing. We're a good football team. We've been saying that since training camp, it just took us seven wins in a row to show other people what it's all about."
The 2001 defense led the league in scoring defense, allowing 203 points. The current group has given up 120 points though 11 games, which is 39 fewer than the closest competitor. They're on pace to set a new franchise record for fewest point allowed at 175.
Despite keeping teams out of the end zone, in 2001 the unit was in the middle of the pack when it came to total defense (311.1 yards per game ranked 15th). While total yardage came be a misleading stat, the current team is giving up 56.9 yards fewer per game.
Defensive coordinator Greg Blache's philosophy focused on stopping the run with big men in the middle. Ted Washington and Keith Traylor clogged up the line of scrimmage so a young group of linebackers could run to the ball and make tackles. The idea worked, as the Bears had the second best rush defense in league, at 82.1 yards per game.
A gap control scheme is the key to the current defense ranking sixth in the league against the run. They give up 92.6 yards per game on the ground and have only allowed two 100-yard rushers all season.
PRESSURE THE QUARTERBACK
Blache once said sacks weren't important. Still his unit produced 48 in 2001, which is the most by Chicago since1987. Ron Rivera's defense needs 14 sacks in the final five games to surpass the output of the '01 squad.
DEFENDING THE PASS
If there's one statistical area where the two defenses differ it's in the passing game. In many ways Blache's unit bent but didn't break. They were 29th in the league against the pass allowing 229.1 yards per game. Rivera's unit is tops in the league giving up just 161.5 yards per game through the air.
TALENT FOR TALENT
When looking player for player, the 2005 version is vastly more talented. There are only two starters that from the 2001 team that could have made a case for starting on the current club.
Chris Harris has done a good job as a rookie, but Tony Parrish has 22 interceptions since leaving Chicago. Parrish could play strong safety and allow Mike Brown to move back to free safety. Rosevelt Colvin led the team with 10.5 sacks, but was a limited strong-side linebacker. Hunter Hillenmeyer is a more complete player and is still coming into his own, but for now Colvin would get the nod.
OTHER FACTORS TO CONSIDER
Age and contract status kept the 2001 defense from having a prolonged stay as one of the best in football. Washington and Traylor were on the wrong side of 30, while six starters were due to hit some form of free agency after the season.
The oldest member of the starting defense is 28-year-old Adewale Ogunleye. Hillenmeyer is the only starter due to hit free agency at season's end and he'll be restricted.
If the defense keeps playing on their current pace there may be a valid debate of their place in franchise and even NFL history. When it comes to comparing it to the 2001 unit, Brown's assessment is correct.