Bears double the sacks

Reed Schreck

Bob Babich wouldn’t possibly play favorites.

Would he?

Just because he was the Chicago Bears linebackers coach before he was promoted to defensive coordinator this season, that doesn’t mean the linebackers will be given special treatment, will they? They won’t be put in better positions to make big plays, now that Babich has that kind of control, will they?

“I don’t think he’d say he would,” said Hunter Hillenmeyer, the third member of the starting unit. “He wouldn’t say he’s consciously calling defenses to get linebackers sacks.”

Babich continually says the team is running the same system as always. All players can make big plays, he says.

Sunday against Kansas City, they just happened to come from linebackers. Considering they have Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, that would seem to be a weekly theme.

Only it hasn’t been, at least as far as sacks. Urlacher’s sack was his first since Oct. 16, 2005. It was the first time two Bears linebackers recorded a sack in the same game since Oct. 9, 2005, when Briggs and Urlacher got them.

Three of Chicago’s seven sacks this season have come from non-linemen. Last year, only four of 40 weren’t registered by an end or tackle. Corner Nathan Vasher also produced a sack, his first in the NFL, against San Diego.

As for the linebackers compiling more impressive numbers, Hillenmeyer says, “Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come. It might be more coincidence.

“Hopefully, we’ll start piling them on. This was kind of a ground-breaking game for linebackers. We didn’t get many last year.”

The grand total was one – by Briggs.

“It’s always fun when the defense plays well, especially when you go into the linebacker room (for positional meetings),” Hillenmeyer said. “We made some big plays (Sunday), but we left a lot of big plays out there. Lance and I both should have had interceptions.

“But we feel like, especially on this side of the defense, we’ve got to make big plays because we’re going to be put into position to do so.”

Hillenmeyer said it’s always good when the defensive coordinator comes from your position “if for no other reason he’s going to scrutinize that position as hard as any.”

“Hopefully, that makes us better,” he said. “We knew we’d like him and have a good setup. We feel good how we all mesh together. It’s early in the season, so it’s way too early to be satisfied with what we’re doing.”

Still, they’ve already doubled their sack output from last season with 14 games to go.

Urlacher likes Babich’s aggressiveness, but added: “I don’t think it frees us up.”

“It gives us a chance to rush more times than we have in the past because we aren’t playing so much Cover Two,” he said. “The teams we play dictate how he calls a game because both teams have had pretty good running backs so far, so we wanted to stack the box and try and stop the run and make the quarterbacks beat us.

“But he has been aggressive, turning us loose. Third-and-long, he’s blitzing us. Second down we’re blitzing quite a bit. So he gives us a chance to make plays in the backfield.”

Added backup linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo: “We’re the same defense. We do the same things we’ve always done.

“The production just depends on who the D-line decides to block. Some of it has to do with the way we set up plays. We’re not surprised, though.”

Reed Schreck is the NFL writer for the Rockford Register Star. Contact him at 815-987-1381 or rschreck@rrstar.com.