Historically, the Chicago Bears are all about defense, right?
Their “Monsters of the Midway” moniker was first given in the 1940s, but was later revived and made famous by the dominant Bears defense of 1985, who ranked first in points and yards allowed among all NFL teams. Basically, what I’m saying is: When you think Bears football, you think defense.
But this season was supposed to be all about the offense. After all, the Bears just traded up to draft their franchise quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, fired their defensively-minded head coach, John Fox, hired an aggressive offensive mind to replace him, Matt Nagy, and added a TON of offensive weapons via free agency and the draft (Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Tarik Cohen, etc.). But the Bears simply can’t resist their calling.
In the 2018 NFL Draft, the Bears selected linebacker Roquan Smith with the 8th overall pick and then they made a massive trade to acquire the *single best* defensive player in all of football, Khalil Mack, just before the season. The team also extended Kyle Fuller, retained their excellent defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, and saw big-time contributions from first-year safety Eddie Jackson.
Suddenly, all that fuss about the offense went out the window, and the Bears defense was right back in the spotlight. And they did not disappoint. Indeed, I’d say their defense is the reason the Bears are still in first-place, even now that we’re HALF-WAY through the 2018 season.
So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see their unit ranked as the leagues very best:
— NFL (@NFL) October 31, 2018
According to Pro Football Focus, the Chicago Bears have the single-highest graded defenses through the first eight weeks of the season:
- CHICAGO BEARS: 90.5
- Los Angeles Rams: 89.0
- New England Patriots: 87.5
- Philadelphia Eagles 84.0
- Washington Redskins: 80.8
- Denver Broncos: 79.8
- New York Jets: 78.9
- Baltimore Ravens: 78.7
- Houston Texans: 78.4
- Jacksonville Jaguars: 78.2
And that’s no small-feat, especially considering the fact that they have a nearly 10-point advantage on the league’s fifth highest ranked team. That is defensive dominance, that is earning the name Monsters of the Midway. And most importantly, we can see this grade born out in a number of key defensive statistics.
For example, the Bears are sixth in points allowed (144), fourth in yards allowed (2,307), t-eighth in yards allowed per play (5.4), second takeaways (17), t-second in interceptions (11), and second in Sc% (29.6%), the percentage of opposing drives that end in a score. The Bears bye-week comes into play, but it can both help and hurt their rankings, depending on the stat, so, yeah, this is all very impressive.
Indeed, if you had to criticize them for something, you can point out that their 52 penalties and 427 penalty yards accepted (15th in the NFL) is not up to snuff, especially when you consider that seven of the 14 teams ahead of them have played an additional game, but that’s not the worst mark out there and might just be part of their game. For now, just consider it a goal.
And I’ll also add that despite some limitations for the Jets, I was so proud and thrilled to see the Bears defense hold their own without Khalil Mack on the field on Sunday. His impact is felt both directly and indirectly every second he’s out there, and I was worried they’d look a little lost without him. And while I’m not hoping he has to miss any more time than the minimum, it was heartening to see them succeed against an AFC East foe with such success.
So, again, while the offseason attention was originally on the offense, the Bears defense has reclaimed the attention of Chicagoans. The Bears have the best defense in football, and that’s just the way we like it.