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updated: 10/27/2012 7:42 PM

Bears defense better than '06 version?

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  • Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, who was defensive coordinator for the Bears in 2006, says this year's Bears defense may be better than the one he directed.

      Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, who was defensive coordinator for the Bears in 2006, says this year's Bears defense may be better than the one he directed.
    Associated Press

  • Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (28) rushes upfield against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

      Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (28) rushes upfield against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)
    Associated Press

 
 

Through six games, the current defense has put up better numbers in several categories than the Bears' last Super Bowl team.

Heading into Sunday's game against Carolina, the Bears are No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed per game (13.0) and interceptions, No. 2 in rushing yards and No. 4 in sacks and third-down efficiency.

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Through six games in 2006, when Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was the Bears' defensive coordinator, they were No. 2 in points allowed but yielded just 9.8 per game, No. 11 in interceptions, No. 5 in rushing yards, No. 3 in sacks and No. 1 in third-down efficiency.

"As you watch these guys, you watch a team that's very opportunistic," Rivera said of the current Bears. "They go out and they attack the ball, and they get the football. It's almost reminiscent of 2006. In fact, I think this group could be better.

"It's an exciting bunch to watch, it really is. I enjoy watching the tape as we break it down against these guys and we have some common opponents. Kind of neat to see those guys flying around."

Through six games in the Bears' 1985 championship season, when Rivera was a backup linebacker, the defense was No. 5 in points allowed per game (16.3), No. 5 in takeaways and No. 6 in sacks.

Football 101:

Several 30-something members of the defense believe that smarts and experience have helped them compensate for any diminishing physical skills, including Brian Urlacher, who was asked if he's gotten "football smarter," over the years.

"I don't think I was ever football dumb," Urlacher said. "But obviously the longer you play the better you're going to get.

"The more you see plays, the more you're in a system, you're going to get better and know what's going on.

"This is our ninth year in the (Lovie Smith) system now, so we should all be pretty smart and know what to do."

Special fill-in:

In his first game as a Bear this season, street free agent Zack Bowman stepped in for injured Sherrick McManis and contributed with a recovery of a Lions muffed punt.

"Zack, off the street, came in here and filled a role," special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. "We needed him bad because Sherrick was down. He came in and he played great. Outstanding performance. He did a good job blocking, too."

With McManis' hip injury healed, there may not be room for Bowman on the active roster Sunday.

"How do you play them both?" Toub said. "They play the same position. That will be tough. We have to decide."

Key numbers:

The Bears' defense is "only" No. 6 in total yards allowed, but that's not the stat that matters most to the group.

"The pride is winning games," linebacker Brian Urlacher said, "getting 11 guys to the football and getting takeaways.

"We're not even No. 1 in the NFL on defense because it goes by yards, which doesn't mean a lot to us. Points (allowed) and takeaways mean a lot to us."

NFL DEFENSIVE RANKING THROUGH 6 GAMES

2012 2006

Avg. tot. yds. allowed 6 (291.2) 2 (243.2)

Avg. rush yds. allowed 2 (71.3) 5 (74.5)

Avg. pass yds. allowed 16 (228.0) 5 (168.7)

Avg. 1st downs allowed 7 (18.3) 1 (13.5)

Avg. points allowed 1 (13.0) 2 (9.8)

Interception pct. 1 (5.7%) 11 (3.6%)

Sacks per pass 4 (. 08) 3 (. 09)

3rd-down efficiency 4 (29.2%) 1 (23.2%)

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