The Chicago Bears, resurrecting the Monsters of the Midway moniker with their dominating defensive play, look to defeat an NFC South leader for the second straight week as they visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bears have won six straight and are in first place in the NFC North, thanks largely to the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL.
A victory Sunday would give Chicago its longest winning streak since the original Monsters of the Midway were still striking fear in opposing offenses. The Bears haven’t won seven in a row since winning their final seven games of the 1986 season.
This Chicago defense has allowed the fewest points in the NFL with 110 in 10 games, and is allowing a league-low 252.1 yards per contest. The Bears have given up three touchdowns in their opponents’ last 78 possessions, and just two rushing touchdowns all season.
Chicago is coming off a 13-3 win over the Carolina Panthers, who fell into a tie atop the NFC South with Tampa Bay. The Panthers entered the contest averaging 29.8 points during a six-game winning streak, but were held to their lowest point total in 46 games.
“We expect to win every game and came out and played like we always do,” linebacker Brian Urlacher said. “People may say it’s a statement game, but we just came out and played hard and got the win.”
Chicago sacked Carolina quarterback Jack Delhomme eight times, and Bears cornerback Nathan Vasher intercepted two passes.
“We’re playing really good as a defense right now, and until … somebody shows us different, we’re going to continue to bring the heat, bring the pressure,” Vasher said.
The Bears have held six teams to 10 points or less, keeping five opponents out of the end zone.
While Chicago’s defense has been extraordinary, the offense has done just enough to keep the team winning.
Rookie quarterback Kyle Orton ranks 30th in the league with a 62.5 passer rating, but has not made any costly mistakes since Week 3. He’s thrown for more than 150 yards only once all season.
The Bears offense is led by running back Thomas Jones, who is among the NFC leaders with 840 rushing yards and six touchdowns despite missing 1 1/2 games with bruised ribs.
Last week against the No. 2 run defense in the NFL, Jones had 87 of Chicago’s 122 rushing yards.
The Bears again play one of the top defenses in the league this week against the Buccaneers.
“We’re similar teams,” Chicago coach Lovie Smith said. “They like to run the football, play great defense. Our defense got its origin down there. They’re the fathers of the defense. We’re the young crew coming up through the ranks.”
Smith coached the Buccaneers linebackers from 1996-2000 and brought that system to St. Louis, where he served as defensive coordinator before being named Bears coach in January 2004.
Tampa Bay ranks third in total defense, but has been struggling the past three weeks. While the Bears have given up a total of 29 points during that span, the Buccaneers have given up an average of 32 points.
Tampa Bay is allowing an average of 272.7 yards, but surrendered 443 to the Falcons.
The Bucs had just 258 yards of offense, as wide receiver Joey Galloway, third in the league in both yards receiving and touchdown catches, was held without a reception.
Tampa Bay’s offense was sparked by rookie Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, who rushed for more than 100 yards for the first time in nearly two months.
“I did need a game like that just to reassure myself I can get it done on this level,” Williams said.
A sprained arch in his left foot forced Williams to sit out two games and part of a third, and he had struggled since returning. Williams had been limited to 82 yards on 45 carries in four games before rushing for 116 yards against the Falcons.
“I’m just going to take what I did and what we did as a team in stride, go out and prepare this week and try to (beat) Chicago,” Williams said. “I feel like I’m getting back to full health, getting where I can do things out there that I normally do.”