Written by Joe Tidei/Special to Bears Backer
Games are won and lost in the trenches. Defense wins championships. These aren’t clichés.
The 2015 Broncos stymied Tom Brady in the AFC Championship and Von Miller made life hell for Cam Newton in the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks dominated the Broncos and Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl the year before. Denver had arguably the greatest regular season offense of all-time that year.
The Giants vs Patriots in the Super Bowl, twice. Both times, the Giants made Brady uncomfortable and forced him off his spot with a relentless pass rush.
Despite all the rule changes to benefit offenses and the influx in the passing game, football is still a violent sport and physicality reigns supreme.
This is the blueprint that Ryan Pace, John Fox and Vic Fangio envision. Load up on talented defensive lineman, edge rushers and inside linebackers, which is why the Bears free agency strategy this off-season made sense.
They identified defensive holes and attacked them. Pace addressed and upgraded every position, except for the secondary. The organization placed more value on the front-7 and it made sense.
This isn’t suggesting that the Bears have talent and depth in the secondary, they don’t. Nor is it dismissing the importance of playmakers in the passing game, but it’s clear that Fangio and Fox believe they can protect their secondary with schemes, a strong run defense and a consistent pass rush.
If the Bears fail to put pressure on the quarterback the secondary will be exposed, but that’s a risk the coaching staff is willing to take and a scenario they’re prepared for.
How do the Bears build on 2015? Considering their lack of talent, the defense had a solid year, but there is definite need for improvement. They blew late game opportunities against San Francisco, Detroit and Minnesota. The defense ranked 20th in scoring so it’s not far-fetched to believe the Bears will have a legitimate shot at the top 15 this season, possibly top 10.
A move that high is attainable with one of the best defensive coordinators at the helm.
Fangio will do what he normally does. Architect strong schemes with versatile game plans, preach discipline with sound technique and demand his unit keep teams out of the end zone. Third-down defense and forcing more turnovers will also be a focus.
So, who’s different from last season? The additions of two rock solid inside linebackers in Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman and some new toys in Leonard Floyd, Akiem Hicks and Jonathan Bullard. Willie Young and Lamarr Houston are also back at full strength.
The biggest question mark is Pernell McPhee. His knee is arthritic and he’ll be starting the year on the PUP list, which means he’s out for the first six games. That is a huge loss.
McPhee is the leader of the defense and a productive playmaker when he’s healthy, but no one outside the organization knows the condition of his knee.
As optimistic as I am about this defense, they aren’t the ‘07 or ‘11 Giants, ‘15 Broncos or ‘14 Seahawks. I don’t expect them to be great, at least not this season, but the future is worth getting excited about.
Two of the brightest defensive minds in football are the architects. The blueprint will be something special even if it’s still a year away from completion.
The keys for 2016 are improvement, consistency and developing young talent; all three of which should be visible during construction.
Author’s note: Joe is an associate producer at CSN Chicago. Give him a follow on Twitter @Joe_Tidei. He talks Chicago sports all day every day.
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