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updated: 9/30/2012 7:38 PM

Bears ready to 'line up' against Cowboys

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  • Bears defensive tackle Amobi Okoye sacks Rams quarterback Sam Bradford last Sunday. Thirteen of the Bears' 14 sacks through the first three games have come from the defensive line.

      Bears defensive tackle Amobi Okoye sacks Rams quarterback Sam Bradford last Sunday. Thirteen of the Bears' 14 sacks through the first three games have come from the defensive line.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

The Cowboys have the NFL's No. 1 defense in yards allowed, but the Bears are arguably better.

While they rank sixth in yards allowed, the Bears are No. 5 in points allowed, two spots above the Cowboys. The Bears also are No. 2 in sack percentage, three spots ahead of Dallas, and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's group is No. 4 in interception percentage, the Cowboys 22nd.

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Linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher are tied for the team lead with 21 tackles apiece, but, according to them, there are bigger factors that have made the defense so dominant this season.

"The one thing that stands out is our defensive line, our pass rush," Briggs said. "We have been getting after a lot of quarterbacks. It's hard to be successful offensively if the defensive line is getting the pressure they're getting.

"Offenses are all about timing. If our defense is getting up to that second level and moving quarterbacks, either getting them on the ground or making them throw the ball before they want to, that is glaring for me. That is the one thing that stands out."

A lot of the credit for the defense's No. 4 ranking in interception percentage should go to cornerback Tim Jennings and his 4 picks, but the pass rush has been a factor as well.

Because the Bears have been able to get most of that pressure using only their four linemen, pass coverage has benefited. Thirteen of the Bears' 14 sacks have come from linemen, who rarely have needed help from blitzers.

"Anytime you can play zone coverage and get pressure with four, you get more sets of eyes on the quarterback," Urlacher said. "They can break on the football, and I think that's why we've gotten the picks. The sacks are coming, obviously, (but) even when we're not getting sacks, we're getting pressure, which is a good thing."

As a rookie in 2000, Urlacher had 8 sacks, but he never has matched that number since. He had 6 in 2001 and '05 and a career total of 41, but he has had just 4 in the past four seasons combined, when he rarely has been asked to rush the passer.

"I think I blitzed once this year; it's been great," Urlacher said. "We haven't had to. (When) you get pressure with those guys we have up front now, there's no reason to bring (additional) guys and put your DBs in a bad situation.

"So we've just been rushing four for the most part. When we have blitzed, we've gotten there, which is nice. Sometimes in the past, we've blitzed and not got there."

Five defensive linemen have more than 1 sack already this season, making it more difficult for opposing offenses to predict where the pass-rush pressure will come from.

Marinelli has utilized eight different linemen, and seven of them have gotten to the quarterback at least once.

"Anyone who's in there, coach (Marinelli) always says, has the ability to get after the passer," said defensive end Corey Wootton, who has 1 sacks. "That's why we're out there.

"It's definitely a changeup, especially the different guys we're bringing in. One play it's Izzy (Israel Idonije), one play it's Pep (Julius Peppers), one play it's myself, one play it's Shea (McClellin).

"So it's definitely a good look across the front."

And that front is giving the Bears' defense a good look across the board.

rlegere@dailyherald.com

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