Rivera: Bears' D might be better than '06

Ron Rivera likes what he sees from his former players, including Lance Briggs. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera believes the 2012 version of the Chicago Bears' defense might be better than the one he coached in 2006 as the team' s defensive coordinator.

In reviewing tape for Carolina's upcoming matchup with the Bears, Rivera -- who played nine years for the club, winning a Super Bowl in 1985 -- said he's been entertained by the way the defense has performed against common opponents.

"It's an exciting bunch to watch," Rivera said. "As you watch these guys, you watch a team that is very opportunistic. They go out and attack the ball, and they get the football. Almost reminiscent of 2006, I think this group could be better. I really do."


"The things they do and the way they play is outstanding. I think it all starts with the two linebackers (Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs) and Charles Tillman, three guys who have been around a long time that understand how to play that way," Rivera said. "In fact, throw Israel Idonije in that mix as well. They've been doing it a long time. And the rest of the guys pick up off their lead."

Rivera said what sets Chicago's current defense apart from the one he led in 2006 is the front four, headlined by Henry Melton, Stephen Paea, Julius Peppers and Idonije. Rivera also sees similarities between Chicago's current group and the one he played on in '85.

The Bears rank fifth in the league in sacks (21) with 19 of those coming strictly from the defensive line.

"As far as the one I played on, the '85 team, the way they get after people," Rivera said. "They can get after the quarterback with just the four guys. Then you watch the way the linebackers attack. These guys are downhill football players that are physical and are playmakers. And their DBs are opportunistic. You look at what Charles Tillman does, and the way he's redefining stripping and knocking the football out. It's really a true testament to that defensive philosophy that's been there for quite some time.

"Compared to the 2006 (defense) that we went to the Super Bowl with, I think this group can be better;. I really do because the front four is probably better (than 2006), and it really begins with those guys up front."