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Bears offense as advertised, defense opening eyes

After 5 games, secondary Bears' most pleasant surprise

Matt Bowen

Scouting the Bears

8:32 PM CDT, October 13, 2012

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The Bears are a 4-1 team, a good one that has produced expected results over the first five weeks of the season.

Outside of the loss in Green Bay when the Bears suffered a complete offensive meltdown, Lovie Smith's team beat the Colts in Andrew Luck's first career start, used big defensive plays to pull away from the Rams and took advantage of some poor execution from the Cowboys to win on the road.

Then they traveled to Jacksonville and whipped the Jaguars 41-3 while beating up quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

If you want to talk like a playoff contender, you have to take care of those types of teams. You must pour it on in the second half and chalk up another victory because the schedule is going to get little tougher as sure as the calendar turns.

Sure, the offensive line has some issues at the tackle positions, and Mike Tice has adjusted his game plan because of it. But they can lead with the run, mix in some play action, use the short-to-intermediate route tree and get the ball to Brandon Marshall.

He has been a legit No.1 wide receiver for quarterback Jay Cutler. It doesn't matter where Marshall aligns because that's where the ball is going. His size, length and open-field ability make him an easy target.

The Bears have a methodical offensive system, really, where Matt Forte gets touches and Cutler can work the ball in the middle of the field (off his back foot if he has to) with the occasional deep shot.

This was expected after watching this team during training camp in Bourbonnais.

However, defensively, I don't think many of us could have predicted the production and the big plays the Bears are making in secondary.

After five games, Tim Jennings is playing like a Pro Bowler. Charles Tillman too. And the safeties — the position everyone had concerns about this summer — are playing well.

This unit has been impressive with 11 interceptions in just five games whether it is playing the coached techniques of the Cover-2 system, aligning in Cover-1 or making plays in the blitz front.

A good example is Major Wright's second interception versus the Cowboys' Tony Romo. Two vertical routes were sent up the field against Cover-2. Wright was square in his backpedal, played at the proper depth and broke at an angle that allowed him to drive on the ball.

That's technique. Heck, that's coaching tape for a deep-half safety. And it's also a sign of a player who is finally healthy and displaying a skill set the Bears have been waiting for.

He and Chris Conte have yet to give up an explosive play. Both have improved their angles to the ball as well as their tackling at the point of attack.

That's growth and development for two young pros who are vital to this defense's success.

Jennings gave up one play against the Jaguars when he stopped his feet in man-coverage. Hey, that happens sometimes when you make your money playing outside of the numbers all day.

But look at his overall production this season. Jennings is finishing plays, breaking on the ball and showing the talent of a complete cornerback who can hit and cover.

During camp, I had my own questions about Tillman's ability to run at top speed, open the hips versus the vertical passing game and hold up in man-coverage. But I can't question the two interception returns for touchdowns, his knack for finding the ball or the desire to set the edge in the run front at this stage of his career.

Tillman still can play and the first five weeks have reminded me of that.

And don't forget D.J. Moore, who continues to hold down the nickel spot while playing a role in the Bears' pressure packages.

This defense also has quality depth along the line, Lance Briggs is heading back to Hawaii and the Bears are playing at a top-tier level despite Brian Urlacher running at about 70 percent on a good day.

But after five short weeks, my focus is on this secondary. It is physical, fast and dictating the flow of the game.

That sells in today's NFL.

Twitter @MattBowen41

Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. You also can find his work at nationalfootballpost.com.