During an interview with CSNChicago.com before the start of the season, John Fox was a realist about how he anticipated his first season as Bears coach playing out:
“Our first four games, and a little preseason, there’ll be a learning curve,” Fox said. “Whenever you have a new staff, it’s just not as well-oiled early. Going back to both places I’ve been (Carolina, Denver), it didn’t start great. By the time you finish that first year, then it consistently gets better because you have some core players that know your system.
“It doesn’t happen overnight, even from just the learning curve. Forget about the ability level; it’s knowing and understanding the system.”
Indeed, the “new” excuse was there for the taking when Vic Fangio was hired as Fox’s defensive coordinator: “The Bears are changing over to a 3-4 scheme” ... “don’t have all the players that fit it” ... “even the ones that might fit have to learn new teammates and Fangio’s system.”
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But after throttling the Raiders and allowing just 243 yards, the Bears rank No. 7 in yards allowed. They have allowed just two rushing touchdowns through four games and just two offensive touchdowns of any kind to Oakland and one to Seattle.
The Bears aren’t interested in the “new” label anymore.
“I don't think it's a ‘new’ defense,” linebacker Sam Acho said. “I think it was new in April, maybe in May, maybe even in June. But come August and September, it's not new anymore.
“This is our defense, we're taking ownership of it, and there's definitely areas we can grow and we can grow as unit, but it's not new anymore, it's starting to become our own defense.”
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Some of the early going, as Fox predicted, was rocky, for reasons beyond just orientation into the Fox-Fangio system. The Green Bay Packers are the No. 8 offense in yardage, the Arizona Cardinals No. 3. Before Sunday, the Oakland Raiders were No. 5. Arizona ranks No. 2 in scoring, the Packers No. 6, the Seattle Seahawks No. 11 before Monday night’s game against the Detroit Lions.
But besides individual player performances, the confidence level in the Fox coaching staff is palpable. And with confidence comes success, and vice versa.
“Vic is just a great teacher, he understands the game,” Acho said. “It's almost like he wrote the book on defense and how it's played.
“Obviously everyone has their different mentalities, different styles of defense, but he just understands it and understands the game in a way that we can go out and play fast and play physical and he knows what it takes to win and play good defense and that's what we do.”