Bears' defense makes statement in upset of Carolina

CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears veteran pass-rusher Pernell McPhee was asked Thursday whether a defense can truly be “great” without forcing turnovers.

“No. You have to force turnovers to be a great defense,” McPhee said. “You have to score defensive touchdowns to be a great defense.”

The Bears' defense may not fall under the category of “great” yet, but it certainly is trending in the right direction after Sunday’s 17-3 win over the Carolina Panthers.

For the second consecutive week, coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense powered the Bears to victory with takeaways and defensive scores.

Last Sunday, Adrian Amos’ 90-yard pick-six proved enough for Chicago to upset Baltimore on the road.

This week, rookie safety Eddie Jackson played the role of hero when he became the first player in NFL history to have two 75-plus-yard defensive touchdowns. Jackson’s pair of defensive scores (75-yard fumble return and 76-yard interception return) gives the Bears three defensive touchdowns in the past two games and six total forced turnovers. Linebacker Danny Trevathan also intercepted Newton in the fourth quarter.

Truth be told, the Bears have played solid defense much of the season, but their inability to take the ball away held them back from reaching their true potential.

With the turnover problem solved -- for now, anyway -- everything else is falling into place.

Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks (six sacks in 2017) is playing like a Pro Bowler.

Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (one sack on Sunday) looks like a top-10 pick.

Cornerback Kyle Fuller is having a career renaissance after missing all of last year due to a knee scope. Since the Green Bay game in Week 4, Fuller has been one of Chicago’s best tacklers -- a development very few people envisioned happening.

And Jackson resembles the kind of long-term solution at safety the Bears haven’t had since Chris Harris and Danieal Manning roamed the defensive backfield in 2010.

The Panthers dominated time of possession on Sunday, but in doing so, they unwittingly played into the Bears’ hands.

Chicago’s strength is its defense.

The longer the defense is on the field, the better for the Bears.

At this point, the offense can’t do much besides run the ball. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (4-of-7 for 107 yards) is still learning on the job and there simply aren’t enough weapons at receiver to put a ton of points on board. Actually, the offense was close to being a liability versus the Panthers, who as most expected, did a much better job stopping the run than the Ravens in Week 6.

But the Bears' defense has been good enough to carry the team to two straight victories.

As Chicago’s schedule begins to lighten up in the now Aaron Rodgers-less NFC North, the defense should keep it interesting in the final nine games.

The Bears haven’t played in meaningful games in November and December in years.

That could be about to change -- and it's thanks to the defense.