10 QUESTIONS - Patriots vs Bears Part 1
Bear Report Editor John Crist is this week's guest on 10 questions.
10) The Bears have been getting an abundance of media attention surrounding their defense. Some have gone as far as to compare it to the 1985 Bears team that won the Super Bowl, ironically against the Patriots. How good is the Bears defense, and do you believe those comparisons are fair?
John Crist: Personally, I think the comparisons are ridiculous because that team will always be remembered as one of the best in NFL history. The 2006 defense is remarkably good, but they play a much different style than the 1985 team. Brian Urlacher & Company predicate their system on speed and athleticism. Mike Singletary and his minions were more overpowering and physical. All that aside, the Bears have a deep and talented defensive line, a blinding-fast corps of linebackers, and a secondary that supports the run as well as any in the NFL they're as good as it gets in football right now.
9) Injuries take a toll on every team by this point in the season. Tell us what are some of the significant injuries for the Bears are and how that has affected the team.
JC: The loss of strong safety Mike Brown can not be understated because the intangibles and leadership he brings to the defense are paramount. Todd Johnson has been hit-and-miss as his replacement, and former starting free safety Chris Harris has been getting some looks there, as well. Bernard Berrian bruised his ribs on the first offensive play against Miami in Week 9, and with Mark Bradley inactive that game, the Bears had no downfield passing game to speak of whatsoever. Berrian came back last week and looked to still be dealing with the injury, but Mark Bradley has picked up the slack and scored a touchdown from long range each of the last two games. Aside from that, this team has been very fortunate with injuries so far, as is usually the case for teams in contention at this point of the season.
8) Robbie Gould began his pro career learning under the guidance of Adam Vinatieri in New England during his rookie camp. Gould has gone on to become the Bears starting kicker. How has he fared recently, and are the Bears happy with his development?
JC: Gould was given the job in 2005 after Doug Brien started the season just 1-of-4 on field goal attempts, and the former Nittany Lion went on to have a solid debut campaign with the Bears. He was just about automatic from inside 40 yards but struggled with his long-range kicks. This season, Gould is perfect on both field goals (24-of-24) and extra points (30-of-30) and a big reason why the Monsters of the Midway have arguably the best special teams in the NFL. On top of that, he's getting the ball much deeper on kickoffs and already has more touchbacks than he did all of last year. Gould is a great kid that is really coming into his own, and the Bears franchise couldn't be happier with him.
7) The Bears made some interesting draft picks in 2006, including a couple of players the Patriots looked at before the draft in Dusty Dvoracek and Mark Anderson. Which players from that 2006 draft class have made the biggest impact on the Bears and why?
JC: A lot of insiders were scratching their heads after the NFL Draft because the Bears focused their efforts on defense despite already having perhaps the best defense in the league. GM Jerry Angelo has a reputation for finding talent on the defensive side of the ball outside of the first round, and it looks like he's done it again. Danieal Manning wasn't exactly a well-known prospect coming out of little Abilene Christian, but he's taken over as the starter at free safety and has been playing very well. Anderson slipped all the way to the fifth round despite a highly productive career at Alabama because many scouts thought he was undersized for a defensive end, but he currently leads the team with eight sacks and looks to have one heckuva motor. Devin Hester may not be a starting cornerback any time soon in this league, but he's been nothing short of electrifying in the return game and has scored three times from 80+ yards already.
6) What do the Bears do well, and how have teams tried to stop that part of their game?
JC: Offensively, the Bears run the ball very well between the tackles behind one of the more experienced offensive lines in football. The starting unit of John Tait, Roberto Garza, Olin Kreutz, Ruben Brown, and Fred Miller has been intact each and every game this season. The Dolphins did the best job of confusing them with elaborate blitz packages and forced a handful of turnovers by putting a lot of pressure on Rex Grossman. On defense, the Bears might be the best in the league getting pressure with their front four and haven't needed to blitz very much in order to get sacks. The teams that have had the most success against them this season are the ones that have stuck with the running game and forced the pass-rushers to be honest coming off the ball.
Look for part 2 where John addresses the Bears struggles against the Jets, the hype surrounding Brian Urlacher his prediction for the game and much more.