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MORRISSEY: Bears look like an 8-8 team

Updated: August 29, 2013 7:49PM



BOURBONNAIS — The 2012 Bears defense and the evolution of a flip-flopping columnist, in three parts:

1. Players are intercepting passes and recovering fumbles early in the season, but I don’t believe what I’m seeing. The turnovers seem fleeting.

2. Under a tidal wave of opponents’ errors, many forced by the Bears, I do believe — in a big way. The good times will last forever, the economy will turn around and bad breath will be wiped out for eternity!

3. When the turnovers go away in the second half of the season and the tumbleweeds move in, I’m disappointed in myself for having fallen for it.

Sigh.

So this season? No way. Not getting duped. The Bears opened training camp Friday, and they again were talking about wanting to be a turnover-first monster. Good for them. I’m sticking to the truth — that the best defenses are built on speed, technique and tackling, with turnovers being a byproduct. No more flip-flopping for me. No more acting like a trout trying to escape a hook.

What are we supposed to expect in 2013 after dealing with the split personality of the 2012 defense?

I wouldn’t get too excited if I were you.

The defense is a year older this season than it was last season. And that defense already could have used a dye job.

‘‘Last year was a hell of a year, but we have to create a new identity once again,’’ cornerback Charles Tillman said. ‘‘Last year was last year. This year, we have to try and outdo last year. It’s hard, but it can be done.’’

Many of the same players are back playing the same defense under a new coaching staff. Tillman, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs.

‘‘It’s the same philosophy,’’ said Tillman, the undisputed champion of the world when it comes to punching footballs from opponents. ‘‘You don’t want to use last year’s success. You just want to have a career year every year. If you always talk about, ‘Aw, we had a chance in ’85, we’re the ’85 . . . ,’ you can’t live on that. You’ve got to create a new identity each year for your team.’’

Oh, you’d be surprised how long players can live off the year 1985.

I’m certainly not living off my wishy-washy failings of 2012. In my defense, though, what was anyone who watched the Bears supposed to think? Week after week, the turnovers came. They came in ridiculous numbers and with ridiculous regularity. In the first eight games, the Bears forced a league-high 28 turnovers. Seven of those led to defensive touchdowns. Even the most hardened heart melted away.

But the defense was human after that. And because we see a human staring back in the mirror, who wants human? The turnovers shrunk to 16 in the second half, and there were only two defensive touchdowns. The Bears started 7-1 and finished 10-6.

It wasn’t fluky that a Bears defense would force fumbles and pick off passes. It’s what former coach Lovie Smith preached, pantomimed and telepathically relayed to his players. The fluky part was how many turnovers there were early. The silly part was thinking it would last.

Many of those turnovers came against teams that would finish the season at .500 or below. Good teams started showing up on the schedule in the second half, and the fumble recoveries and interceptions went away.

Oh, and the offense stunk. It’s probably unfair to be poking at the defense after what Jay Cutler & Co. wrought last season, but it’s going to be up to the
defense to make something of this season.

‘‘We’ve got a lot of core players back, a lot of starters back,’’ defensive tackle Henry Melton said. ‘‘Of course, we lost a big leader in there, but Briggs is going to step up and lead the way.’’

Melton was talking about linebacker Brian Urlacher’s absence, but the Bears aren’t going to miss him on the field. Maybe in other ways, but not in the important ways of running and tackling. If you saw him chasing ball carriers last season, you know that to be true.

Many people thought the offense finally would do something special in 2012. I wrote before the season that the offense would drive the Bears. All the offense did was drive fans to drink.

With a new coach, Marc Trestman, and a new offensive attack, the Bears figure to struggle for a while when they have the ball. I see 8-8. You should, too. You’ll be happier and less hung over.



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