MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- How good is the Bears' defense that shut out the Dolphins 16-0 Thursday night?
Better than the one that led the Bears to the 2006 Super Bowl, according to six-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.
Contact information ( * required )
"I think we're better," said Urlacher, who moved past Mike Singletary as the franchise leader in career tackles. "Position by position, I think we match up pretty well with that team.
"We're older, but that doesn't mean we're slower. We're wiser now. We're athletic, and I think the best thing about us is we're disciplined. That's No. 1. We're disciplined and we believe in the system, so it's a trust thing.
"We have to continue to get better every week, but we've done that so far this season."
The Bears are on pace to allow just 234 points this season, which would be 21 fewer than in 2006. The defense often has played exceptionally well this season, but the clinic it put at Sun Life Stadium elevated the unit to a higher level.
It was the Bears' third win in 12 days, the first time they've done that since 1993. Stout defense and a balanced offensive attack have been the formula.
On a warm and muggy night in South Florida the Bears' defense, which came in No. 2 in points and No. 4 in yards allowed, mugged a Dolphins offense that was missing its top two quarterbacks, Chad Pennington and Chad Henne.
Among other individual accomplishments the NFC North-leading Bears (7-3) celebrated in their victory over the Dolphins (5-5) was Urlacher upping his career tackle total to 1,489, 2 more than Mike Singletary's previous mark of 1,487. Defensive end Julius Peppers also increased his season sack total from 2 to 5.
"We wanted to put pressure on that second-place team behind us," Bears coach Lovie Smith said, alluding to the Green Bay Packers (6-3). "The story of the night was defense. We had constant pressure throughout."
Through three quarters the Dolphins had accumulated a measly 125 yards. They finished with just 187, including 47 during a garbage-time drive on their final possession.
The Dolphins had been shut out at home only once before in the past 40 years, and the Bears' last shutout was Nov. 19, 2006, in a 10-0 victory over the New York Jets.
They say they still haven't peaked.
"Absolutely not," said Israel Idonije, who got his team-best sixth sack. "We left some plays on the field. Sure, we did a lot of good things. When you shut a team out, you're playing well.
"In order to do that you have to do some good things on the field. We did that, we all know that, but we can we get better."
The Dolphins were unable to run with any effectiveness using Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams, who finished with 11 yards on 6 carries.
Third-string quarterback Tyler Thigpen was sacked six times, picked off once (by Charles Tillman) and harassed most of the night, unable to do little more than check down to underneath receivers for short gains.
Playing with a 9-0 lead midway through the third quarter, the formerly pass-happy Bears began to grind it out, with an emphasis on the run that hasn't been seen since offensive coordinator and passing game guru Mike Martz came to town last off-season.
Six straight run plays, split between Matt Forte (25 carries, 97 yards), who had a pair of 9-yard pickups, and Chester Taylor got the drive going, an illegal-contact penalty on the Dolphins' Benny Sapp helped, and then Jay Cutler completed passes of 12 and 10 yards to tight end Greg Olsen down to the Dolphins' 8.
From there, 3 Forte runs, the last from 2 yards out, got the Bears into the end zone for the only touchdown of the night and a 16-0 lead with 1:57 remaining in the third quarter.
The TD was Forte's team-best seventh of the season.
Robbie Gould's third straight field goal of the game, a 50-yarder, had given the Bears a 9-0 lead with 11:47 left in the third quarter. As they had throughout the first half, the Bears mixed equal parts of run plays with pass plays on the drive.
Johnny Knox (55 yards on 5 catches), who has emerged as the Bears' go-to and big-play receiver, had a 12-yard catch, and Forte added runs of 9 and 7 yards.
And, as he has for the past three games, Cutler contributed key scramble yardage, adding an 8-yard gallop to help set up Gould's second field goal of the season from 50 yards or longer.
By running the ball 40 times and allowing the Dolphins to convert just 1 of 11 third-down plays, the Bears dominated the time of possession 37:51-22:09.
For the third straight game the Bears' offense did an exemplary job of presenting a balanced attack, with 18 running plays and 17 pass plays in a first half that saw them creep to a 6-0 lead.
Peppers, whose contribution to the defense cannot be measured by the modest total of 2 sacks in the first nine games, made another big play late in the first quarter, tipping a pass by Thigpen.
The altered toss was picked off by Tillman at the Bears' 49 and returned 5 yards.
Peppers' third sack came late in the first half and helped thwart a Dolphins drive just after it crossed into Bears territory. His fourth sack helped finish off the Dolphins midway through the fourth quarter.