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Championship-caliber defenses

CHICAGO – The NFL has become a passing league. No doubt about that.

The Ravens are even throwing the ball all over the place.

But Sunday night was a tribute to what the NFL used to be. And what fans in Chicago love.

Not the losing part. But the low-scoring, defensive-owned, hard-hitting part.

You can call it ugly if you like.

But for defenders everywhere, it was anything but.

There were hard hits. Some legal. Some not. Some somewhere in between.

And there were two teams fighting for a share of the best record in the NFL.

These were two teams that can win when they're bad. And dominate when there good.

Next Monday, when the Bears head to San Francisco with both starting quarterbacks possibly out – the Bears' Jay Cutler and the 49ers' Alex Smith suffered concussions Sunday – you should expect the same.

There were turnovers caused by bad offense and bad weather. But there were even more caused by great defense.

Sometimes it's hard to separate the two. Sunday night, it was clear.

These were two good teams, really good teams, with two of the best defenses in the league.

The question is whether a team with inconsistent offense and great defense can still win it all, in this age of passing.

Because a list of the last three Super Bowl winners – N.Y. Giants, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints – makes you wonder.

While this football wins in the mud and swirling winds, it might not work in a dome in February.

We might just find out.

All year, it's been wait and see on what the Bears would do with another shot at a legitimate contender. And Sunday night, we found out.

They'd push 'em around on defense and slog through 3 quarters of offense.

Same as they did against the Panthers.

The defense stood up – like it had all season – and made me a believer.

They're good, they can play with anybody, and regardless what happens Monday night this team is a legitimate contender.

They might not win over a national audience with their “boring” style of play. But since when did Bears fans care about that?

Cutler will be back, if not Monday then the next week, and the offense will continue to do just enough to win while the defense carries them.

After all, that's Bears football. And this year, that means good.

• Northwest Herald sports editor Jon Styf can be reached at

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