Behind Enemy Lines: Part II

Our Scout.com experts, John Crist of BearReport.com and Nick Athan of WarpaintIllustrated.com, break down Sunday's game between the Bears and Chiefs at Soldier Field in Chicago. Let's continue this three-part series with five questions from Nick to John.

Nick Athan: With the injuries to defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek and free safety Mike Brown, how does that change the Bears defense this week as they prepare for Chiefs running back Larry Johnson, who could get 20-25 carries on Sunday afternoon?

John Crist:
Fortunately for them, the Bears are an incredibly deep team especially on the defensive side of the ball. While Brown is the emotional epicenter of the locker room and Dvoracek appeared to be a breakout candidate before getting hurt, head coach Lovie Smith has some capable backups that would be first-stringers on most teams across the NFL. Second-year pro Danieal Manning started 14 games at free safety last season and will now start again in place of Brown, and recently-acquired Darwin Walker – one of the better pass-rushing DTs in football the last few seasons – takes over for Dvoracek at nose tackle.

There's no question that Brown's presence in the defensive backfield can be directly correlated with San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson having so much trouble finding running room in Week 1, but the Bears will not alter their scheme at all with Johnson and Co. coming to town Sunday.

NA: How has Bears linebacker Lance Briggs adjusted on the field due to his disappointment of not being able to secure a long-term contract with management this past summer? Is he still the same player, or has he lost a bit of his edge due to the contract stalemate?

JC:
If anything, Briggs probably gained more of an attitude to his game because this season is nothing more than a 16-game job interview for him. It's long been established that 2007 will be his last season in Chicago, so since GM Jerry Angelo is not going to reward him with the outrageous contract he covets, he needs to have the best performance of his career in order to prove to another potential employer that he is worth a substantial investment. There is only one thing that Briggs does exceptionally well – he's a fantastic open-field tackler – but that's all this defense really needs him to do since the likes of Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris and, before he got hurt, Brown are asked to be the playmakers.

Briggs played pretty well in Week 1 (8 total tackles, 7 solos) and looked like the Pro-Bowl performer Bears fans have come to know over the course of his career thus far.

NA: There are so many people who have an opinion on Bears quarterback Rex Grossman. With his up-and-down play Sunday against a stellar Chargers defense and with the running game still a work in progress, can Grossman be the type of quarterback that can lead a big-time drive in the fourth quarter to put his team in position to win the game?

JC:
It's no secret that Grossman had a Jekyll-and-Hyde season a year ago, putting up all-star numbers one week before looking completely overmatched the next. He really needs a strong running game in order to be at his best because he's an accomplished play-action passer, and he also tends to play well when his tight ends are heavily involved. While Grossman hasn't done enough to make Bears fans overwhelmingly confident should the team need a two-minute-drill drive to pull out a victory, he did make some big throws in overtime against the Seahawks to set up a game-winning field goal from Robbie Gould in the divisional round of the playoffs.


QB Rex Grossman (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

There were many quarterbacks who struggled in Week 1, but none of them took the kind of punishment in the media that Grossman did because it's become so easy to blame him for everything that goes wrong in Chicago these days.

NA: There isn't much talk about the Bears wide receivers. In your opinion, are they good enough to go up against two of the better cornerbacks in the NFL this week when they'll face Ty Law and Patrick Surtain? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

JC:
The Midway Monsters have lacked a true difference-maker at wideout seemingly forever, but Bernard Berrian appears to be on the verge of a 1,000-yard season with his increased size and track-star speed. Muhsin Muhammad has been incredibly productive over the course of his career and still makes the tough catch as well as anyone, but he's little more than a possession target these days and couldn't even out-run rookie tight end Greg Olsen at this point. Mark Bradley has an impressive combination of size and speed, Rashied Davis has a reputation for making clutch grabs out of the slot, and Devin Hester is arguably the most dangerous player in the league with his hands on the football, but none of them has proven very much as a receiver at the NFL level.

While the Bears lack a big-name pass-catcher – Berrian could be one before long – they do have five pretty solid options that all bring a unique skill set to the table.

NA: In Kansas City, the passion for the Chiefs is unprecedented even though they've not won a playoff game since the early 90s. In Chicago, with so many choices for professional and college sports available to the fans, what did last year's Super Bowl appearance do for this franchise and the beloved Bears fans who love this football team?

JC:
While the Windy City has a long history of being a great baseball town as well as a great basketball town – hockey is officially dead, by the way, thanks to evil Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz – there is nothing that unites Chicago like a Super Bowl run by its beloved Bears. Not even the waterboy from that legendary 1985 team could pick up a dinner check in this town if he tried, but getting so close to another championship this past season only to fall short has proven to be a very tough pill to swallow. No question about it, anything shy of a Super Bowl title this season will be considered a complete failure.

Absolutely, there are many diversions available in a city of this size, but another Vince Lombardi trophy would bring unparalleled pandemonium to Chi-Town.

To read Part II of Behind Enemy Lines, where John answers five questions from Nick, Click Here.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com. Nick Athan is the Editor of WarpaintIllustrated.com.

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