The Bears defense used to roll their eyes at the mere mention of the '85 Monsters of the Midway, the benchmark set for any Bears defensive unit.
"We're not 85, not '06 and definitely not '07," lamented weak side linebacker Lance Briggs today.
No, the '08 Bears are somewhere in between. The unit is ranked 1st on third down stops and 6th in stopping the run, but 29th against the pass and 23rd in sacks.
A bye week to self scout revealed only this, "we have to get back to where we are with attitude" Briggs admitted, then let out an embarrassed laugh at their shortcomings. "When our offense scores 48 points, we know we only have to hold (the other team) to 41."
Fellow linebacker Brian Urlacher and Briggs are second and third on the team in tackles respectively, carrying on their yearly competition to lead the team. But both trail safety and first time starter Kevin Payne, whose 60 tackles are a symptom of letting too many offensive players get to the third line of defense.
Hunter Hillenmeyer, who normally lines up at the SAM linebacker spot, has been struggling through injuries all season, finally having surgery to repair a broken thumb. In Bob Babich's defensive system, all the linebackers are interchangeable, meaning their backups are too. The only difference?
"The next backer that's in is a lot darker than Hunter," Briggs deadpanned referring to African-American teammates Nick Roach and Jamar Williams replacing the German fair skinned Hillenmeyer.
While Bears defenders try and deflect the criticism away from their current coordinator Bob Babich, they are also quick to congratulate former coordinator Ron Rivera on his promotion to defensive coordinator in San Diego.
"It's about time" Briggs smiled saying, "he should be a head coach by now... he's proved he can coach the Tampa 2, excuse me, the Chicago 2, and the 4-3. I'm happy for him."
Now if the Bears could find their own identity on defense, too.