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Bears' defense has reason to be confident

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
Associate editor

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Posted Nov. 14, 2011 @ 4:06 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

If the Bears' defense keeps playing like it has over the past four games, and it's very capable of doing so with four games against mediocre AFC West competition up next, pressure on the offense will be low, and taking the burden off Jay Cutler and Mike Martz is a key for the Bears.

Despite recent improvements spurred by Martz's tardy but much-needed adaptability, the Bears are still short on firepower on that side of the ball.

Chicago has allowed only 16.3 points per game during its four-game winning streak and the defense has 12 takeaways over that span — including six in a win over the Lions Sunday — after forcing eight turnovers in the first five games. The Bears are playing a physical, high-energy, opportunistic brand of football, mixing in wrinkles to their standard defense to keep offenses from getting comfortable without straying too far from the Lovie Smith's preferred style.

"I don't think we've done anything differently, except we're playing our techniques better as much as anything," Smith said Sunday. "We're not a defense that's going to put in a new defense each week. We believe in our basic philosophy. When things aren't going well, we go back and try and play it better. That's what our guys have done. The first time we played (the Lions), we gave up a lot of big plays. The guys have really eliminated that."

The PFW Spin

Smith is right — the Bears have not allowed a play longer than 40 yards since they gave up touchdowns of 88 and 73 yards in their loss to the Lions in Week Five. The Bears are executing better and they're playing with leads, which allows the coaching staff to be more comfortable with showing some creativity.

We saw defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli move DE Julius Peppers inside to the three-technique more often to get him away from the chip help on the edge, and Peppers recorded a sack from the position. The Bears dropped a defensive tackle into coverage to clog the middle of the field at times. They took a risk playing a significant amount of man coverage against Calvin Johnson, and CB Charles Tillman played very well against him. Johnson, who was targeted 19 times, was held to seven catches for 81 yards, and four different Bears players intercepted QB Matthew Stafford. Two of the picks were returned for touchdowns.

The Bears' six takeaways Sunday were the most they had in a game since Sept. 17, 1995, when they had seven at Tampa Bay.

"I think we've got some good chemistry going," FS Chris Conte said Sunday. "We're all having fun out there and that's the most important thing. We're all having fun. We're all making plays. Really, out there, it's who's is going to make the next play? We all want the opportunity and we all want to get in on the action."

When Conte, a rookie third-round pick with four starts under his belt, is speaking with such conviction, it's a pretty clear indication of the kind of confidence the Bears' defense has at the moment.

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