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Ron Rivera says 2012 Bears defense could be better than 2006 unit

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera enjoys watching tape of the 2012 Bears defense.

“Kind of neat to see those guys flying around,” he said.

Especially since he worked with some of those players, including linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher and cornerback Charles Tillman and defensive end Israel Idonije. But Rivera said this year’s defense could actually be better than the 2006 unit he was the defensive coordinator of.

“Compared to the 2006 one that we went to the Super Bowl with, I think this group can be better. I really do,” Rivera said. “Because the front four is probably better (than 2006), and it really begins with those guys up front.”

“I think their front four can rush as well as anyone in the league. They can get after the quarterback with just the four guys.”

Rivera added that the linebackers play downhill football and that the defensive backs are “opportunistic.”

“You look at what Charles Tillman does, and the way he’s redefining stripping and knocking the football out,” Rivera said. “It’s really a true testament to that defensive philosophy that’s been there for quite some time.

Continuity, though, is also a key to the success of the unit, Rivera said.

“They’ve been doing it a long time. And the rest of the guys pick up off their lead,” Rivera said. “It’s an exciting bunch to watch. I enjoy watching tape as we break it down against these guys, and we have some common opponents.”