There are a number of statistics that illustrate the prowess of the Bears’ defense.
After seven weeks, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s unit ranks:
◆ Seventh in total yards.
◆ Sixth in yards per play allowed.
◆ Ninth in passing yards allowed.
◆ Sixth in passing touchdowns allowed.
◆ And sixth in sacks.
But Fangio doesn’t pay attention to numbers. He said so last week. He prefers the eye test — and right now he sees a defense that has grown more confident through its matchups against a daunting array of quarterbacks this season.
“I’m waiting to see when we get Eastern Illinois on the schedule or something,” Fangio quipped Thursday.
Didn’t Saints coach Sean Payton play at Eastern Illinois?
“Oh, let’s change that college, then,” Fangio said with a smile. “Lake Forest College. Let’s change that. I did know that, but wasn’t realizing that when I said it.”
Jokes aside, Fangio’s defense has faced nothing but Super Bowl winners, NFL most valuable players or first overall picks at quarterback the first seven weeks.
It’s a trend that continues Sunday against Drew Brees, a future first-ballot Hall of Famer who led the Saints to a victory in Super Bowl XLIV.
It’s a run that finally will end after the bye in Week 10 against the Packers, who are starting Brett Hundley after losing Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone.
“[The defense is] feeling good,” Fangio said. “Anytime you play good — it’s just like golf. You make a couple of long putts, all of a sudden you think you’re a good putter.
“But our guys are feeling good. I think they felt good all year but weren’t always getting the results. It’s nice to get some results.”
Those “results” would be four interceptions, including two pick-sixes, and a 75-yard fumble recovery for a score in consecutive wins against the Ravens and Panthers. The defense also hasn’t allowed a touchdown since the third quarter against the Vikings in Week 5.
Getting those same results against Brees is an entirely different challenge than sacking and intercepting Joe Flacco or Cam Newton, though.
The Bears know that. They’re confident but haven’t crossed the line into overconfidence, or so it seems. Three weeks ago, they were burned by Vikings backup Case Keenum after he replaced starter Sam Bradford in a 20-17 loss at Soldier Field.
“[Brees is] a veteran quarterback who has been in that offense ever since Sean Payton has been there [in 2006],” Fangio said. “He knows the offense as well as Sean Payton. He’s a great operator. He dissects defenses — what you’re in, what you’re not in — as good as anybody. [He] throws on rhythm a lot. There’s a reason why he holds a lot of these records.”
Players repeatedly called Brees a challenge this week.
Then again, that’s all they know this season.
“We know [if] we can hold those [quarterbacks] and limit those guys to minimum plays that we’ll build that confidence,” rookie safety Eddie Jackson said. “It will be, ‘Look, man, we can do this. We can depend on each other, and we can beat anybody.’ ”
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