THE MORNING AFTER: Dominant? Elite? The best? All fit the Bears’ defense

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CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 09: Quarterback Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams gets the football stripped by Khalil Mack #52 of the Chicago Bears in the third quarter at Soldier Field on December 9, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – Before the season, you know they were solid. In Week 1, you knew they were better than you thought.

Wins against the Seahawks, Cardinals, and Bucs got fans thinking big. Two-straight losses might have rattled confidence, but since then they’ve proved their worth.

Statistics say the Bears have not a good, but great defense on their 2018 team.

They cause turnovers, cause havoc for the quarterback, and have led the Bears to eight wins in their last 12 games. Many would call it one of the best in the NFL, yet some might have still waited to have that one game that cemented the identity of a new era of the franchise.

Sunday, that happened. If you didn’t believe it before, you do after the three hours of football that transpired at Soldier Field.

The Bears defense is, quite simply, elite. At the moment, they’re the best in the NFL. The group under Vic Fangio proved to all that it’s ready to take a championship step by crushing the team many believe to be the front-runner for the Lombardi Trophy.

“They played hard, they play together, they play smart,” said quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who benefitted from the defense’s superb effort in a 15-6 win over the now 11-2 Rams on Sunday. “You couldn’t ask for more on defense, how they’re doing, how they’re giving effort, studying, come out here and shut people down.”

Mitch is certainly right about that, and it’s in this effort that the defense showed they’re the best in the NFL, because, frankly, they beat the best offense in the NFL.

Technically, Jared Goff and the Rams came to town as the second-best offense in yardage (439) and points (just shy of 35) per game. Yet their attack had no answer for the Bears’ swarming attack that caused the visitors problems from the start.

Khalil Mack (surprise, surprise) set the tone with a heavy rush on Goff in which he nearly dragged him down for a sack on third down of Los Angeles’ first drive. Instead of a touchdown after a Mitchell¬†Trubisky interception, the defense held the Rams to three points – and the dominance began.

“Oh, yeah,” said Kyle Fuller when asked if he thought this contest would have a defensive tone. “We knew that even before the game. It showed up.”

Yes, it did.

The Bears had the Rams under 100 total yards late in the third quarter. Todd Gurley, who came into Sunday as the NFL’s leading rusher, was stymied all night and held to just 28 yards on 11 carries. Goff, ranked in the NFL’s top five in passing yardage, was held to just 180 through the air and was picked off four times. That’s more than he’d thrown total since October 14th.

Over four quarters Goff was hit ten times and was sacked on three occasions.

Los Angeles never reached the endzone over the course of 60 minutes, and their six points were 17 less than their previous worst offensive outing of the season. It’s dominance that makes fans utter “1985” when they are watching, and like them, this Bears defense is making it hard for people not to call them the best in the NFL.

Mack, who collected yet another strip sack in the third quarter,¬† was asked if the defense had such confidence on Sunday night that they felt as if they couldn’t be stopped.

“That’s how we feel every time we break the huddle,” said Mack in response. “One, because of everybody in communicating, on the same page. We know it was going to be a good one.”

The Bears defense, meanwhile is a great one. An elite one. At the moment, it’s the best in the National Football League. Whether the Bears as a collective are a Super Bowl team right now is still in the air, but their defense is championship-ready.

“They are a very good team. They are going to be the Rams tomorrow, right? And they are still going to be a really good team in this league and in the playoffs,” said Akiem Hicks, who had one of those sacks in the fourth quarter. “What I will say, though, is that we just had it tonight. We had a lot of heart, a lot of focus, and we pulled it out.”

Now they’ll have the attention of the rest of the league, even more than they did before.

“It definitely took us to another level going against the best team in the league,” said outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. “It just gives us the extra motivation to go to the next week.”

Since they’ve now cemented themselves as the best by beating the best badly.

 

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