The Bears have had good defensive units in recent history, but they're playing at a whole different level this season. What's been the difference?
"There are probably three areas that have contributed most to the high level of play of the defense and all three were questions entering this season.
"First, the pass rush has more depth this season. The Bears have struggled complementing Julius Peppers in the pass rush the last two games, especially on the line. They don’t like to blitz a whole lot so they need to get to the quarterback with their four down linemen. Tackle Henry Melton and ends Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin have pitched in. Melton is playing well in what is a contract year and Wootton, a former standout at Northwestern, is finally healthy in his third season. McClellin, a first-round draft pick from Boise State, has worked well in the rotation and now the defense has a consistent rush that has made the back end better and is most responsible for the defense leading the NFL in interceptions."
On the back end, cornerback Tim Jennings, the NFC Defensive Player of the Month in September, has been terrific. He has four interceptions and has caused two others with deflections. He’s made a real jump in play, especially when you consider he was benched Week 16 last season before returning via free agency.
"Finally, the safeties – Major Wright and Chris Conte – have provided steady play at a position that has been plagued by a high rate of turnover during Lovie Smith’s tenure."
How big of an addition has receiver Brandon Marshall been to the offense?
"It is impossible to overstate the impact Marshall has had on the offense. Former general manager Jerry Angelo had two significant shortcomings in his era, which ended in January. He didn’t adequately fortify the offensive line through the draft and he repeatedly failed to outfit his quarterbacks with a legitimate playmaker.
"The Bears’ wide receivers did not create matchup issues for opponents for years. With Marshall, Chicago has a legitimate No. 1 threat and a guy that has pre-established chemistry with quarterback Jay Cutler. Marshall has expanded the offense and it should open up things in the running game in coming weeks because defenses will not be able to load the box with eight defenders as they have done in the past vs. Matt Forte."
The Bears don't do a lot of gimmicky things on defense, they play it pretty straight forward in their Cover 2. That being said, how do you expect them to deal with Lions receiver
"Lovie Smith almost always plays his defense. He believes it is built to stop everything. The base Cover Two scheme is probably what is best to contain Johnson too. No one is going to be able to stop him. When the Bears play Cover Two properly (they had some significant breakdowns in the Ford Field meeting last season) they will be able to keep Johnson in front of them and limit big plays. Smith has used Charles Tillman, his bigger cornerback, to shadow bigger wide receivers from time to time. Tillman might follow Johnson from side to side but I would expect the defense to primarily be in Cover Two."
The Monday night atmosphere in Detroit last year was electric and the Bears felt the effects with nine false start penalties. What can the Lions expect from Chicago Monday Night?
"No one is going to call Soldier Field the loudest stadium in the NFL. But it can get noisy and the Bears actually struggle with the crowd noise from time to time at home as Jay Cutler and Lovie Smith have appealed to the fans to tone down when the offense is in the red zone. The Bears are probably one of the few teams in the NFL that use crowd noise during practice to prepare for home games."
The Lions are viewing this as a huge game because of the start they've had and where each team currently stands in the NFC North. Is there the same feeling with the Bears, or is this just another week?
"The Bears are thrilled to get back to play against anyone. With the game on Monday, the layoff has been even longer for them coming out of their bye. They’re placing significance on the meeting because their lone loss came in the division to the Packers."