It’s interesting to think back to the start of training camp three months ago.
Just about everyone, myself included, was convinced that the Bears’ offense would be more explosive with the addition of Brandon Marshall, Michael Bush and Jason Campbell. And many feared the defense would begin to drop off because of the advancing age of its Pro Bowl players – Charles Tillman, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher.
Through seven weeks, the opposite has been true. The only impressive aspect of the team offense has been the run game, courtesy of Matt Forte. He has been every bit as good as he was last year when he was voted to his first Pro Bowl, and Bush has helped with some of the short-yardage chores.
Marshall has been tremendous, but the Bears are just 25th in passing yards and average gain per pass play.
It’s clearly been the defense that has carried the Bears to a 5-1 record. Old age? More like the prime of life. Tillman has been the NFC defensive player of the week in the Bears’ last two games. At 31 he appears headed back to the Pro Bowl. Ditto Briggs who, like Tillman, has 2 interception returns for touchdowns. For Briggs it would be his eighth straight Pro Bowl.
Peppers has been his usual standout self, although with just 3 ½ sacks, he’s a bit behind pace to equal last year’s 11. But he continues to create opportunities for his linemates by drawing double-team attention. Urlacher, still working his way back from knee surgery, is not yet the player he was last season, but he’s getting better every week.
Now, if that supposedly improved offense ever lives up to the hype, it could be a special season. It might be anyway, as long as the defense doesn’t start acting its age.