LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- In what is sure to be his final winter as a Chicago Bear, Lance Briggs finds himself in a curious place.
He is the leader of a wretched defense and he is finding himself getting wistful about fullbacks.
"It kind of reminds me of back in '03 and '04 when there were a lot of fullbacks and as a SAM (strongside linebacker) all I did was run in and just smash fullbacks or we smashed each other all week long until we couldn't see in front of ourselves," Briggs said.
Times were simpler back then. No one was worried about CTE and the Bears defense actually hit people back.
"It's actually kind of nice to watch a fullback go out and finish guys as much as he does," Briggs said. "It's kind of a buildup. As soon as he starts running it's all right, which guy is he going to take out this play. But this is a team where you've just got to be fundamentally sound: you know, be in our alignments, read our keys, play downhill and we'll make plays."
Fundamentals, alignments, properly read keys, playing downhill -- uh oh, the Bears aren't good at any of those things. That doesn't bode well for them ending a current three-game losing streak, not to mention a three-game home losing streak.
For all the grief that Jay Cutler takes -- much of it deserved -- the second year of the Mel Tucker defense has been as bad as the first. But there have been no changes, no real demotions. Just meetings, film study and those great practices we hear so much about.
The Bears (3-6) are actually favored this week, but of course, it wouldn't surprise anyone to see them lose to visiting Minnesota. This is a team headed nowhere, from the front office to the ever-churning bottom of the roster.
The offense is a myth, and the defense a dysfunctional mess. There are no strengths to this team right now, no bright spots.
Briggs, one of the remaining links to the proud Bears defense of old, is as much culprit as he is a solution for a defense that has given up 92 points in the last two weeks. He's missed time with injury, including the Bears' last win in Atlanta, and the aging Bears great doesn't look great when he's on the field.
On Wednesday, Briggs admitted he screwed up the late play call that led to Jordy Nelson's first wide-open touchdown in a soul-killing 55-14 loss in Green Bay. He made a late change that led to the secondary playing different coverages.
It didn't lose the game, but it set the tone as Green Bay romped to a 42-0 halftime lead.
It was reminiscent of the Bears' defense's final indignity of the 2013 season, when Packer Randall Cobb took advantage of similar defensive miscommunication and scored a last-minute touchdown that won the NFC North.
"I shouldn't have made the check," Briggs said. "I saw something, tried to check out of it, and we don't have a check out of that defense. So I put our defense in jeopardy on that play."
Whatever you want to say about Briggs as his career careens to a halt, don't say he's not an honest man.
"If I make a mistake in the football game, I take ownership of it," Briggs said. "I'm accountable for my mistakes. I was raised that way. Every coach I've ever played for raised me to be that way. You take ownership of what you do on that field. And sometimes there's not enough of it. There's not enough of it in the game."
Briggs and defensive end Jared Allen, neither of whom is producing to his reputation, were again the defense's featured speakers Wednesday, and their attitudes were befitting of their places in Halas Hall.
Allen, the newcomer with no real ties to the team, was honest, but straining to be positive.
"Can I make one request?" he said. "Let's talk about the Vikings. I spent all day yesterday answering Packer questions. Let's talk Vikings today."
To his credit, Allen did talk about the state of the defense, but in his own upbeat manner.
Meanwhile, Briggs, the Bears lifer, was decidedly downcast. When asked if the defense were still as confident as it was when the season began, Briggs' expression and tone said it all.
"The confidence level? Shoot. I've never been in a situation like this and the last year," he said. "And as tough as it is, today is definitely better than yesterday and you could say the same about the day before. And really at this point, it's every one day at a time. And it's one play at a time. And it's one practice at a time. So that's my mentality. I can tell you that much. I don't know if I can speak for everybody else, but I'm sure it's probably something similar."
Yeesh. Bear down, anyone?
Tucker, likely knowing his days are numbered here, was feistier than usual with the media Wednesday. By that, I mean he had a pulse. He maintains a few broken plays are spoiling a workable defense.
"When you look at it, and you break it down, and you say, OK, you take 60 or 70 plays, and you look at those plays and say, there are four or five plays where we were not good," Tucker said. "So you focus on fixing things that are happening on those plays. There are other plays that we played good football. And you want to build on those plays. So you have to hone in on what needs to be corrected in those areas. It's not all bad. But the areas where we need to correct or where we have mistakes, those are big plays, those are huge plays and they cost us touchdowns. So we hone in on those things and we put special emphasis on those areas."
But Tucker said that while they can make some changes, expect the same starting lineup Sunday.
That's right, the Bears will trot out the same terrible defense that played its role in giving up 50-plus points in back-to-back weeks, the first time that's happened since 1923. The same defense giving up 381 yards per game. The same defense that makes late checks, wrong reads and bad decisions.
It's a defense that Briggs leads, but likely doesn't recognize. But that's the thing about the good old days. They're gone.