Stepping Up

"Somebody has to step up and make a play." It's one of my favorite and most overused lines while watching our defense play over the last few years...

...I'd say it to my son sitting next to me at home games. I'd say it to my dog, Cedric, while pacing the family room during away games. Sometimes I'd say it in my sleep in the middle of the night. So many times this defense needed someone, anyone, to step up and make a play in critical, late game situations, and so many times no one came through. I'd plead with them, beg of them; "please, someone just make a play!!!"

Sadly, no one would, or could.

Very rarely would I have to make that request of anyone on this high-powered, high-profile offense. You always seemed to feel that someone was going to come through, that it was just a matter of time until they got on a roll, putting up points at will. It would always come back to the defense. A crucial stop on third down, a goal line stand, a turnover; someone on the "D" was going to have to stand up and be counted.

What a difference a year makes. There is still no reason to doubt what this offense can do, but all of a sudden we do have players on the other side of the ball that can make a difference; that can turn the game around; who can win the game. Now I don't have to beg to plead; I know that someone will step up. It sure is a nice luxury to have and one that has been sorely missed for an extended period of time.

Time after time this season a defensive player for this team has come through at crucial moments. While the offense has become more patient and methodical due to the schemes it has faced, this defense has become aggressive, opportunistic, physical, and now has a number of "difference makers" who step up when the team was in need. It started with Gary Brackett's first quarter pick in Baltimore on opening night, and has continued right up until this past Monday's interception-fest at home against the Rams.

Difference makers. It's a term that Bill Polian is fond of – and it seems safe to say that he has found them on both sides of the ball.

They are creating turnovers in critical situations, whether it be a pick or forced fumble, relentless pressure on opposing quarterbacks, (not to mention the pounding that those quarterbacks take each and every week), and the all-out physical play that is prevalent throughout the game. Guys making plays when it counts; guys on defense making plays when it counts. It has been a long time coming, and I know I speak for many when I say that it is great to finally see it.

I find that a Dwight Freeney sack is just as much fun to cheer for as a Manning to Harrison touchdown pass, and equally as entertaining. Seeing Robert Mathis force a fumble while dragging a quarterback down is a thing of beauty. Watching Bob Sanders "plant" a running back for no gain on third and short is pure joy.

Seeing everyone on this defense do their job, allowing everyone else on this defense to do their job is truly the essence of teamwork.

I am enjoying this defensive renaissance by our team, but I still need to see consistency. I am not ready to proclaim them the '85 Bears, but I do believe that they show the promise of great things on the horizon.

And I do know this; I don't find myself sitting up in bed in the middle of the night hoping that someone will step up and make a play.

Email me at I always welcome your thoughts, questions, and concerns.

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