CHICAGO -- You gotta believe.
You gotta believe in the Chicago Bears and their defense, their ability to win with a rookie quarterback and, most of all, their chances of reaching the playoffs.
|Are the Bears legit? You should ask Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme. (AP)|
The Bears didn't beat the Panthers as much as they overwhelmed them, attacking the pocket and pressuring Jake Delhomme so relentlessly and effectively that he threw two first-quarter interceptions and was sacked a season-high eight times.
When it was over, Chicago had its sixth consecutive victory and first over an opponent with a winning record -- and, yes, I believe.
I believe the Bears are more, much more, than just an ordinary club in a weak division because of a defense that so bewildered Delhomme and the Panthers, they failed to produce a first down on six of their first 10 series and failed to score 20 or more points for the first time this season.
"We feel good about where we are right now," said winning coach Lovie Smith.
They should. They're on top of the NFC North, are 7-3 and just beat a club touted as a preseason favorite in the NFC -- a club, incidentally, that entered the game with a six-game winning streak, including three consecutive games where it scored 38, 34 and 30 points.
But the Panthers never ran into anything like these Bears. From beginning to the end, Chicago overran the Carolina offensive line, forcing Delhomme into hurried passes, mistakes or sacks. On Carolina's last-gasp drive, it was Delhomme who wound up clutching the ball -- buried by defensive Adewale Ogunleye before the Carolina quarterback could unload a fourth-down pass.
Do the math, folks. That's eight sacks by the defensive line. Now you know why the Bears are effective. That kind of pressure allows linebackers to drop into coverage and the Bears to play a lot of zone defense. And it's murder on the opposing quarterback.
"If you're going to block Alex one-on-one, me one-on-one and Tommie one-on-one," said Ogunleye, "I'm betting nine times out of 10 we're going to get after you."
The Bears entered the game as the league's No. 1-ranked defense and were first in fewest points allowed. But there was a question of how legitimate those numbers were, with critics wondering who the Bears had beaten. After all, they hadn't defeated anyone with a winning record and hadn't stuffed a top 10 quarterback.