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Note to Urlacher: Wake up and smell the defense
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Columnist

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher


Daily Herald file photo

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Published: 12/1/2009 4:06 PM

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Question to Brian Urlacher:

Where is this defense you speak of that keeps the Bears in games, makes big plays and puts the team in position to win?

Venting over the weekend to Michael Silver of YahooSports while they watched on television as the Vikings mopped the Mall of America Field with the Bears, Urlacher leveled thinly veiled criticisms of the offense, specifically quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte. He longed for the days of winning with dominant defense.

First of all, nice job of acting like a captain, Bri.

Why would a player who isn't even on the active roster allow himself to be the subject of a story critical of the team? Getting Urlacher to talk to the Chicago-area media is often like pulling teeth. But he doesn't have any problem running around day and night with any national guys willing to stroke him with puff pieces.

If Urlacher doesn't want to talk, that's fine. It's enough that he has been an impact player and the face of the franchise for most of the last 10 years. When he suffered a season-ending dislocated right wrist in the season opener, the Bears immediately became a much lesser team. But now he should do what most players on injured reserve do - shut up and rehab.

Coach Lovie Smith was asked about Urlacher's comments, and he publicly dismissed them as frustration, but privately he cannot be pleased by negativity coming from a team captain.

"At this stage, everyone is frustrated with where we are and everybody will speak their mind," Smith said. "Brian Urlacher is a team guy, like all of our players are, and they will voice their opinion. I would like all comments to be positive toward what we're doing, but guys have a chance to voice their opinion. I can't do a whole lot about that, I just know that Brian is a team player. He's behind everything that we're doing."

If he were, Urlacher wouldn't be second-guessing the offensive play-calling.

Another question to Urlacher: Have you seen the Bears' run game? It's arguably the worst in the NFL, and it's dead last in yards per game.

But back to that question about a defense that keeps the Bears in games, makes big plays and puts the team in position to win.

Were you watching tape from an early-2006 game? That's the last time I remember a Bears defense that fit that description. The one I saw in Minnesota, and have seen most of the season, is little more than a speed bump. It can occasionally slow down an enemy offense on the ground but doesn't do much to thwart an air attack.

The really depressing thought for Bears fans is that this defense, despite the money that has been lavished upon it, is in need of a major overhaul.

Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye will be 33 before the 2010 season starts and is an unrestricted free agent after this year. He started the season strong but has had half a sack in the past seven games. The other end, Alex Brown, will be 31 next summer. He's a solid all-around player, but he's never had more than 7 sacks in a season.

After a half season of having no impact at all, tackle Tommie Harris has recently shown brief flashes of his former Pro Bowl self, but that may be all he'll ever show. Urlacher will be 32 before training camp starts next year and nose tackle Anthony Adams will be 30.

The sad fact is that the window of opportunity has already closed for this defense. It's no longer getting better, it's just getting older.

The defense that Urlacher remembers is exactly that, a memory.

LeGere's list

Top 5 passer ratings vs. the Bears in 2009

Carson Palmer, Bengals: 146.7

Kurt Warner, Cardinals: 135.9

Brett Favre, Vikings: 112.5

Donovan McNabb, Eagles: 101.6

Aaron Rodgers, Packers: 92.0