Much-Maligned Safeties Play Well

With Mike Brown once again on injured reserve and Adam Archuleta's continued ineffectiveness, most experts believe that priority No. 1 for the Chicago Bears defense this offseason is the safety position. However, both Brandon McGowan and Danieal Manning proved that they can play a little bit Sunday.

On a day with weather conditions so brutal it took a full maintenance crew of 85 men – as well as a number of fans recruited from the stands – to remove the tarp from the field, SS Brandon McGowan felt he'd gotten to take the day off.

But instead of reclining on a balmy beach somewhere with a considerably more temperate climate, McGowan spent a frigid Sunday afternoon right in the heart of the action against the Packers.

"I guess what I meant by taking a day off," McGowan said, reconsidering his first impression of a bone-chilling day of football, "was that the pressure from Green Bay never came as far as our secondary. We were never put in a make-or-break situation, and for that I'm grateful. I can't say enough about the guys in the front. They never let the Green Bay plays develop. You aren't going to find better linebackers than we had today on any team in this league."

And with the exception of a runaway 66-yard Ryan Grant sprint for the goal line, the Bears defense accomplished what it came to do: Shut down a strong Packers offense, and take away their opportunity for home-field advantage through the playoffs.

"I must admit that was pretty sweet," McGowan said. "Real satisfaction in that outcome. Nothing against [Brett] Favre, but none of us wanted him to have things too easy. In that, we were pretty successful."

On paper, McGowan had a good but not a spectacular outing with three solo tackles and one assist, but he did contribute to the primary goal Sunday: To help the Bears sweep Green Bay.

"We needed this win. I can't tell you how much," McGowan said relaxing in his locker after the game. "I don't care how bad it was out there today, having this win meant everything to us. It gives us a new attitude for finishing out the season, one that we needed to have after the hard times recently."

Down the way in the locker room, FS Danieal Manning rubbed his hands trying to get some of the feeling back.

S Danieal Manning
Rex Arbogast/AP Images

"I used so much ointment on my skin today, it feels like my skin is burning," Manning said, referring to his attempts to keep his blood circulating to his extremities in minus-18 wind chill. "I hadn't realized how quickly that wind would bite through my gloves. I don't think I got frostbite, but I wouldn't have wanted to have been out there too much longer and find out. But it was worth the discomfort to have the game end with the Bears beating the Pack by a strong margin. Perfect."

Manning enjoyed reflecting back on this particularly good day.

"I understand this rivalry and what it means not only to the players but to their fans," he added. "What better Christmas present could there be but to come away with this win? I needed this. Hey, we all needed this. How do I feel now? Great. What else can I say? This is exactly how I'd hoped things would turn out today."

Both Manning and McGowan agreed that a win against the Packers would have consequences far beyond today's stats.

"I can't tell you how difficult it has been to keep things going in a positive direction," Manning said. "When you do everything you can think of in a game, and it still doesn't turn out right. But today was different. Everything that possibly could have gone the Bears way did go the Bears way."

McGowan credited much of the defense's success to the strong effort of linebackers Brian Urlacher, Hunter Hillenmeyer, and the injured Lance Briggs' replacement for the day, Jamar Williams.

"This was Jamar's moment," McGowan said, "and he definitely stepped up. A real strong effort in an important game. If Favre thought Jamar would be the weak link, he'd have been wrong. The blitz was on every time Green Bay got the ball. They had a lot of three-and-outs. It helped keep their progressions off balance, which turned the outcome to our favor. And what more can I say about Urlacher's INT and TD? Great effort."

Manning led the Bears with five solo tackles and one assist, leaving the Packers with 125 yards rushing, 153 receiving yards, and no big plays other than Grant's second-quarter score. Manning hopes to accomplish even more against New Orleans next weekend.

"While I'm going to enjoy every minute of this win, I'm also looking ahead," Manning said. "Finishing the season strongly makes a big difference in your overall attitude during the offseason. I'd definitely rather think back to strong plays I've made and the success of our team rather than to brood over mistakes or missed opportunities."

  • Could Cedric Benson's reign in the backfield be over?
  • Same problems on offense despite coordinator carousel
  • A look back at the Fog Bowl against Buddy Ryan's Eagles
  • Remembering legendary Hall-of-Famer George Musso
  • Getting to know rookie cornerback Corey Graham
  • All of that plus much more in the February issue of ...

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