Leinart Overflowing with Praise for Bears D

Matt Leinart played fairly well in his first start last week against Kansas City, throwing two touchdown passes early but eventually losing the game by a field goal. Things will get much tougher on Sunday when the Bears come to the desert. The former Trojan talked with the Chicago media via conference call on Thursday at Halas Hall, and Bear Report was there to hear what he had to say.

Matt Leinart did a little more at USC than take ballroom dancing classes and date Paris Hilton. He also played some football, winning two national championships and a Heisman Trophy along the way. But none of that matters this week as the rookie signal-caller gets the start for the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night against the undefeated Monsters of the Midway.

When asked to describe what he sees in the film room when watching the Bears play defense, the southpaw is impressed through and through.

"I think they're great," Leinart said. "I think they got a great defense. They're leading the NFL right now. Obviously, they're led by (Brian) Urlacher, who's a great player. Always around the ball, fast, physical. And then they have that great defensive front. Those ends are awesome pass rushers. They get to the quarterback. They rattle. They disrupt an offense. And then they got a great player on the inside in Tommie Harris. They're great up front. They've got great linebackers. Their secondary is very good, experienced. And the pressure that they put on the quarterbacks allows for the secondary to make a lot of plays. They look great."

As great as the Bears have played so far in 2006, Leinart is confident that he can make some plays out there and believes that no defense is impenetrable.

"I think there are holes in any defense, but we just got to play our game. We got to be able to execute. We gotta slow down their pass rush and stuff like that. Every week is a tough game, and for my mindset, now my second start, every defense is great. So we just got to go out there and play hard."

Chicago's front four has been getting lots of press for their incredible start, but despite the accolades of players like Harris, already a two-time Defensive Player of the Week this season, Leinart isn't particularly concerned with any specific facet of the Bears defense.

"Not really," he said. "You look at film. I think the way they get to the quarterback is always a concern. I have faith in my guys up front. They did a great job blocking for me against Kansas City. I think there was one sack that I should have thrown the ball away and maybe another one or two that they got me, but they did great. So I know they're going to go out there and play well. Those guys are really good on the other side, and that's what they do. So we just gotta have a great gameplan, but there's not one element that concerns us. It's just football. We just gotta go out and play."

Leinart was no stranger to playing in hyped-up football games when you consider his impressive resume at Southern California, but he is looking forward to his first appearance on Monday Night Football and knows it will be something different.

"I was just talking to one of my coaches," he said, "and he said the excitement, it's just a different feeling on Monday Night Football. The electricity, the stadium, the people. Everyone's jacked-up to play, and the cool thing about it is everyone's watching. Everyone in the NFL is watching that game. Everybody around the world is watching that game. And for me being my second start ever and against the Chicago Bears, that's pretty cool. I enjoy it. I love football. I have fun. I just play, and I can't wait to get out there."

Two-time league MVP Kurt Warner is probably feeling a little déjà vu considering he was also benched by the New York Giants in favor of then-rookie Eli Manning, but Leinart feels that his relationship with Warner is as strong as ever.

"It's been the same," Leinart said. "When I was his backup, I was asking questions, kind of sitting back, obviously learning from him. Now that I became the starter, he's been helping me tremendously. He's been there every time. He's been a classy guy, very true, professional-like. I know he wants to play bad, and he knows I want to play bad. But there's no harsh feelings between us. We've become pretty close as quarterbacks on this football team. He's been a great supporter of me when I get a chance in there, and he's helped me."

But Leinart isn't playing Oregon State anymore. He's going to need all the help he can get facing an undefeated Bears team that leads the NFL in scoring defense. Monday night will be his biggest test to date by far.

JC


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