NFC North Notes

Suddenly, everyone is starting to take the Bears seriously as they are on pace for a franchise record. In Detroit, as expected the Players Union disagrees a Lions lawsuit looking to recover some of Charles Rogers' signing bonus.


The numbers say the Bears defense is something special, as do the Bears players. Now, even opposing players are starting to say it.

After holding the Panthers to three points on Sunday, the Bears are on pace to better the franchise record of 187 points allowed, which was set by the 1986 team. The current edition of the Bears have permitted 110 points in 10 games, and are on pace to challenge the NFL record for a 16-game season of 165 points allowed, by the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. At the current rate, the Bears would allow 176 points this season.

The Bears aren't exactly bragging yet, but they're not denying the obvious.

"I don't know, I don't watch all the defenses," strong safety Mike Brown said when asked if he played on the league's best defense. "I feel like we have one of the better defenses in the NFL."

After a slight pause, he added, "Man for man, I believe we're probably the top."

The defense has allowed just three touchdowns in its opponents' past 78 possessions and none in its past 27, and the Bears are No. 1 in the league in points and yards allowed. Five of the Bears' 10 opponents have failed to reach the end zone, and Chicago has the NFL's No. 1 red-zone defense.

The Bears seem more inclined every week, and with each victory, to address the question of who is the best defense in the NFL. But it's something they believed they were capable of since training camp.

"As a football team, we didn't all of a sudden start saying, ‘OK, now we're good,' " coach Lovie Smith said. "The players have been saying the same thing for quite a while: that we're a good football team. But you have to go out and prove it."

Sunday's performance against Carolina, the NFL's No. 4 scoring offense, proved it to anyone watching. The Bears even got a huge recommendation from Panthers 34-year-old defensive tackle Brentson Buckner.

"I've been in the league 12 years now," Buckner said, "and it's the best defense I've seen in 12 years. They do what they want to do. They get sacks, and they get takeaways, and they play smart football. They might be the closest to that Bears defense of ‘85 that I've seen."

As the Bucs' linebackers coach for five years, from 1996-2000, and the Rams' defensive coordinator for the following three years, Smith has seen some stifling defenses in his day. He likes what he's seen so far from the Bears, and what he heard from Buckner, but he said it's too soon to get caught up in superlatives.

"Brentson is a good football player," Smith said. "He knows defense. That's definitely a compliment coming from a player like him. But I've seen a lot of defenses. I think you put a defense where it's supposed to be and compare it to others after the year.

"Comparing during the year, it doesn't really matter an awful lot. Just look at our football team. We were supposed to be the worst football team (according to Sports Illustrated). We started the season, and we won a few, and we're a little bit better. What does it really mean? When it's all said and done, I'm anxious to see where our defense stands and what we do as a team."


  • QB Kyle Orton played his best game of the season, according to Bears coach Lovie Smith. Orton's numbers - 15-of-26 for 136 yards with one TD and one interception - would have been much better, but he had five well-thrown passes dropped.

  • QB Rex Grossman threw with the scout team in seven-on-seven passing drills last week and will continue to do so this week as he gets closer to being cleared for game action. That could happen by the first week in December, but more likely it would be a week or two later.

  • RB Thomas Jones came through unscathed in his first game back after missing one week with bruised ribs. Jones rushed for 87 yards on 25 carries last week and needs 108 yards to equal his career-best season of 948 yards, set last season.

  • RB Cedric Benson is not expected to practice this week after suffering a sprained knee on Nov. 13, but he could return to practice the following week.

  • RB Adrian Peterson played just one possession last week as the only backup to starter Thomas Jones, but he made the most of it with 37 yards on four carries.

  • WR Muhsin Muhammad scored his team-best third receiving touchdown last week but also dropped a potential TD pass in the end zone. His six catches were the most he's had in six weeks and tied his season best, although he totaled just 49 yards.

  • WR Justin Gage's seven catches were the most he's had in one game in his three-year career, and his 81 yards were his second-best effort. The Bears are hoping Gage will become the consistent complement to Muhsin Muhammad they've been looking for all season.

  • WR Bobby Wade didn't have any catches but also didn't fumble away any punts, after losing three a week earlier. Wade's three punt returns netted 3 yards.

  • TE Desmond Clark had two drops and no catches.

  • PK Robbie Gould was successful on FG attempts of 39 and 33 yards. His kickoffs were short but had good hang time, allowing the Panthers just 51 yards on four returns, giving Carolina an average starting point of their own 26-yard line.

  • CB Nate Vasher intercepted two passes, giving him six this year and tying him with the Bengals' Deltha O'Neal for the NFL lead.

  • DE Adewale Ogunleye had three sacks to give him the team lead with seven. He also has seven other tackles for lost yardage, which is tied for best on the team. His 60 tackles are best among Bears linemen.

  • DE Alex Brown had two sacks, giving him three for the season. Brown leads the Bears in QB pressures and is second in tackles among the linemen.


    The NFL Players Association says that wide receiver Charles Rogers should not be obligated to repay the Lions $10.184 million in bonus money for his substance abuse suspension.

    The Lions filed a grievance to collect the money based on language in the seven-year contract signed by Rogers as the No. 2 pick in the 2003 NFL draft.

    Players union general counsel Richard Berthelsen said this week that the collective bargaining agreement does not allow a player to be disciplined twice for the same offense.

    Rogers was suspended for four games in October for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. According to the union, the Lions do not have the authority — under the current CBA — to deal out additional penalties.

    The union denied the Lions' grievance last week and it appears the case will now go to arbitration, a process that could stretch into a year.

    Teams have won similar cases — including Miami's case against running back Ricky Williams — in recent times, despite the union's claims.


  • CB Dre' Bly says he expects to be back in his starting RCB position Thursday against Atlanta after missing four games with wrist surgery. Bly was cleared by doctors to play but will still have to wear a cast on his right wrist. Bly has four of the Lions' 13 interceptions.

  • LB Boss Bailey, who missed the Lions game Sunday in Dallas with a sprained right ankle, will probably get playing time in their game against Atlanta on Thursday.

  • QB Joey Harrington said he and Jeff Garcia "split" the reps with the Lions first offense in practice Tuesday, but said he does not know whether it will be he or Garcia in the starting job Thursday against Atlanta. Garcia is coming off a broken and then re-injured left leg but coach Steve Mariucci won't say whether Garcia or Harrington will start.

  • FS Terrence Holt, who missed the Lions' loss Sunday at Dallas with a sore back, returned to practice Tuesday and indicated to reporters that he expects to play Thursday against Atlanta.

  • QB Jeff Garcia, who got two starts before re-injuring his previously-broken left fibula, split the reps with Joey Harrington in the Lions' practice Tuesday in preparation for their Thanksgiving Day game against Atlanta. Coach Steve Mariucci isn't saying whether Garcia or Harrington will get the job.

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