It was only a mere 19 months ago that the Colts thumped the Bears in the Super Bowl, a year in which the Bears were clearly led by a top-flight defense. They even won a few games, even when Rex Grossman tried his damnedest to lose it for the Bears. Brian Urlacher was a feared MLB, and Tommie Harris was one of the best DT in the NFL.
In 2006, the Bears finished 3rd in Points Allowed, and 5th in Yards/Game. Obviously an elite defense, and that was without Harris and Mike Brown for the majority of the season. Their Preseason Rankings, while mostly irrelevant, had them at 20th in Yards/Game and 10th in Points Allowed. These are middle of the road, but again, are mostly irrelevant, since there are lots of plays run by players who'll never see an NFL game that counts.
In 2007, the Bears finished 16th in Points Allowed, and 28th in Yards Allowed. Again, they had a few injuries (Brown, again, Vasher the big ones), but still no where close to being an elite unit. They gave up 123 rush yards/game, which was 24th in the league. As a point of reference, in the Preseason they finished 3rd in Yards Allowed, but 28th in Points Allowed. That is a wide difference, but again, in the Preseason, take it with a grain of salt.
That brings us to the 2008 Preseason for the Bears. They faced the Fearsome Foursome of QBs: Brodie Croyle, Charlie Frye, JT O'Sullivan, and Brady Quinn, and they finished 32nd in Yards Allowed, including 27th against the pass, and 31st against the run. As a point of reference, the Colts finished 30th against the run, and they played backups and 3rd stringers for 3/4 of the Preseason. The Bears finished 30th in Points Allowed. These are not stats for an elite defense.
I watched a good portion of their game against the Browns, and in the first half, at a minimum Urlacher and Lance Briggs played, so it wasn't like they didn't play their starters. And the Browns were running at will against them. Quinn didn't need to throw the ball, as Jason Wright was shredding their defense on the ground. Now the Browns have a very good O-Line, but their skill position starters did not play at all in the game. And they put up 10 points in the 1st quarter against the Bears 1st Team Defense.
I was reading an article in the Chicago Sun-Times, and Brad Biggs is asking the same question I am:
The Bears would have you believe there's a switch somewhere that they'll get around to flipping this week. You know -- the one that turns on their defense now that the regular season has arrived.
He then mentions who their Week 1 opponent is, and what has happened since they last time they faced #18:
The last time the Bears took on Manning and the Colts in prime time, things didn't turn out so good, and it's fair to say the defense has been in a bit of a tailspin ever since.
On the Bears current depth chart, they have 8 starters on defense that played in the Super Bowl. That isn't a big turnover at all, especially in today's NFL. And they all played in the Preseason. And they were the worst in the NFL.
I think we are going to see a heavy dose of Joseph Addai, Dominic Rhodes, and Mike Hart on Sunday night. Not only will we need to get Peyton into a rhythm, but we should be able to run all over the Bears defense.