THAT Chicago Bears Defense Has Finally Arrived

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THAT Chicago Bears Defense Has Finally Arrived

Chicago Bears

Obvious Statement Alert: The Chicago Bears are not 5-1 because of their offense. While Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles have both led impressive and memorable comebacks on that side of the ball, the Bears wouldn’t be atop the NFC North without another rock-solid defensive performance.

Yet, we still saw a handful of defensive lapses throughout the first five weeks of the season. Perhaps it was the lack of turnovers and sacks – two of the most obviously impactful plays you can make on the defensive end – but it was easy to feel like this Bears defense wasn’t fully living up to its potential. Well, that feeling went away on Sunday.

Against the Panthers, the Bears posted their best defensive performance of the season. As Luis outlined in his bullets this morning, Chicago finished with 8.5 tackles for loss, including 4 sacks and 6 quarterback hits. The team also picked-off the ball twice, had five pass breakups, and one fumble recovery. The Bears Sunday showing may not have been their lowest opponent point total of the season, but they did hold the Panthers to their lowest individual point total of the year (16). And considering the Panthers have been one of the more savvy teams on offense over the start of this season (4th-most yards in the NFL), I’d say that’s pretty damn good.

Most of the Bears success came from controlling quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, whom many Bears fan remember handed the team a 36-25 loss as a member of the New Orleans Saints last season (at a time when they were really beat up, too). Heading into this weekend’s matchup, Bridgewater was one of the most efficient quarterbacks in football. He had the best completion percentage in the NFL before kick-off (73.4 percent), yet he ended the day completing only 55 percent of his passes for 216 yards and zero touchdowns against the Bears. The game marked only the second time this season he didn’t throw a touchdown, and it also marked his worst QBR (34.0) since September 29th when he led New Orleans to a 12-10 victory over the Cowboys. In other words, it was an extremely uncharacteristic outing for a QB who rarely hurts his team. Why? The Bears defense has arrived, that’s why.

Chicago has now held opposing teams to a 57.1 completion percentage this season, which is the best in the NFL. They’ve allowed a total of four touchdowns through the air, which is also a league-best. The secondary may not have the number of takeaways we want to see, but it’s hard to ask for much more with those numbers in the mix, especially considering they’ve played several QBs who love to put the ball in the air (Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan, Phillip Rivers, and Tom Brady).

What stood out most on Sunday, though, was the pressure Chicago was able to put on Bridgewater. We’ve now seen the Bears do a significantly better job at shrinking the pocket in back-to-back games. The Bears sacked Brady five times on their Thursday night outing against the Bucs and, as we’ve said, Bridgewater four times this weekend – a total of nine sacks in two games. How much of an improvement is that? The Bears had just eight sacks in their first four games of the season. As ESPN notes, the Bears ranked 20th in pass rush efficiency heading into this matchup against the Panthers, and I think it’s safe to say they’re about to move higher up the ranks.

As many of us know, true defensive success all starts with putting pressure on the quarterback, and if the Bears d-line continues to trend in the right direction, we should only continue to see great success on this side of the ball. The Bears better hope that happens too, because their toughest stretch of the year begins this week (Rams, Saints, Titans, Vikings, Packers). Keep it up, boys.

(Photo by Getty Images)

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.