Yesterday, a tremendous Kyle Orton and a solid offensive line and a suddenly fast Marty Booker and all sorts of wildness conspired to lead the Bears to what can only be described as an offensively minded victory, 48-41. Through seven games, the Bears are 4-3, and have scored an average of 28 points a game, including defensive and special teams scores.
If, before the season, we told Bears fans that their favorite team would be scoring and average of 28 points a game, they'd have been planning their Super Bowl tailgate parties already. 28 points a game is supposed to be enough for the Bears, supposed to be enough for a team whose defense has been their most significant component for at least the past five years, and perhaps before that. (Don't even get me started on the defensive tradition in Chicago. Far too many people seem to believe that Chicago is by its very nature a "defensive town." I don't really know what this means.)
No, 28 points per game has not been enough for a record better than 4-3. Part of that has to do with the Bears inability to close games. But a larger part has had to do with the defense, and its sudden shift in ability. Rather than being a defense that stops opponents first, and then relies on turnovers, the Bears are now a defense that must force turnovers just to stop teams. Anything else leaves them exposed and vulnerable; a shell of their former selves.
Yesterday's example was the most emphatic. The Bears gave up their first 100-yard rusher of the season and two long rushing scores. They also allowed 16 Minnesota first downs, 444 net yards (311 of which were rushing). Minnesota's average gain was 6.6 yards a play. And yet the Bears forced five turnovers and turned two of them into scores, more than enough assistance for a suddenly competent offense.
In all, the defense's performance yesterday feels less like an aberration and more who the Bears really are: Aging, injured, and not nearly as stalwart at the line of scrimmage. Bears fans will have to hope the offense keeps this up -- and the turnovers keep piling up -- if the defense wants to be taken seriously again this season.