Everyone knew this was coming. Its been stated repeatedly the last three years that the Bears' defense is getting old. All their great players defensively are over 30 and are currently hurt, so this general statement must undoubtedly be true.
Unfortunately, for anyone trying to fit that narrative would have to erase 10 other stellar defensive performances besides San Francisco and Seattle this past weekend. One would also have to erase the fact that all four of the Bears' best defensive players made the Pro Bowl in 2011. Furthermore, all four performed legitimately at a Pro Bowl caliber level to be worthy selections a year ago.
Durability is an issue for every player in the NFL, whether you are young or old. No one can ever predict when a significant injury will occur, but in this line of work, its almost a guarantee it will. The NFL does not discriminate against anyone when it comes to injuries. It's just a matter of time.
Just look around the NFL. There are plenty of teams dealing with injuries to key players. Timing is everything when it comes to injuries. It just depends when they happen, to whom they happen, and if the roster is strong enough to sustain them.
The timing of injuries can be problematic, but they can be overcome. General manager Phil Emery has done just that from a roster standpoint. It is now up to the players to perform and show their worth.
Here are the Bears key injuries defensively:
Charles Tillman: Playing with a chipped bone in his ankle. Its just what prideful, tough football players do.
Lance Briggs: fighting through his own ankle injury (playing through it, same as above).
Julius Peppers: has played with a foot problem since camp (same as above).
Brian Urlacher: played with a balky knee and now dealing with a hamstring which may cost him the rest of the regular season.
Tim Jennings: has a shoulder injury which may sideline him also.
All were addressed this offseason through scheme or signings. One of those signings already replaced a former starter, as Kelvin Hayden was already logging significant playing time as D.J. Moores replacement. Hayden comes with significant starts and experience while playing for Indianapolis in the same exact defensive system. If Hayden has to start for Jennings, it also allows a hungry Moore to state his case why he deserves to be the starting nickel back again.
The Urlacher injury was already well thought out by coaches and tested during pre-season games with Nick Roach moving to MLB and Geno Hayes to SLB. If the Bears feel Hayes is the better fit at MLB, so be it. Only one position is affected rather than two if that is the case. Hayes understands the MLB position if he has to start and what is being asked of him.
It was discussed, tested and all players involved have played, performed and won in this defensive system before. Does it hurt the Bears not having their defensive leader out there on the field? Of course it does, but havent the Packers won a Super Bowl and ripped off victories this season without their defensive leader, Charles Woodson, on the field?
The Peppers injury was also already addressed. Corey Wooten and Shea McClellin were already playing to spell Peppers. Unfortunately for McClellan, a concussion slowed his opportunities for more experience. The defensive line rotation as a whole has been much better in 2012 than seasons prior.
So, there really is no time for pity parties concerning the Bears. The only pity is the Bears defense has logged an entire game more in terms of snaps when compared to their offense. The defense has 759 snaps compared to the offense which has accumulated only 700. Typically, each side logs 60 to 70 snaps during a game.
Tired would be an understatement if you play defense for the Bears. They have played basically one more regular season game than their offense.
Football is a team game. It might be time for the Bears offense to aid an ailing defense that has consistently protected them and bailed them out for the past three seasons. They should be well rested and up for the job. It should also be compartmentalized as a pride thing.