SAN FRANCISCO – President Obama has already given his hometown Chicago Bears the nod for best defense in the NFL.
San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis insists he is hardly one to argue with the commander in chief, especially considering Obama will be running the country from the oval office for another four years.
I saw that, Willis said, laughing. Chicagos defense, theyre playing very well right now. They have some tremendous talent on that side of the ball, but theyre playing great team defense right now. Kudos to them. But at the same time, too, we have our own defense to worry about that were trying to continue to make better. Thats our focus.
San Francisco defensive tackle Ray McDonald will let the president have his say, too.
Hes the man, McDonald said. You cant argue with him. His opinion matters.
Chicagos dominant defense is certainly playing the very smothering, run-stopping style of football the 49ers did last season – and the form San Francisco hopes to get back to in the seasons second half as it tries to lock up a first-round playoff bye.
On Nov. 5 during Monday Night Football, a night before he was re-elected, Obama said the ball-hawking Bears have the best defense in the league right now led by coordinator Rod Marinelli – who calls his units chemistry special.
The Bears (7-2) boast the talented linebacker tandem of Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. On the 49ers side, its the duo of Willis and NaVorro Bowman.
Not that Briggs is paying too much attention to who has the best linebackers – or defense, for that matter. He knows everyone will get a glimpse come Monday.
By ranking this week, the 49ers stand third in the league with the Bears two spots back at No. 5 in overall defense. Chicago is fourth at stopping the run, San Francisco sits at seventh. Defending the pass, the Niners are fifth and the Bears 10th.
How do I feel about it? Doesnt change the way I play, doesnt change the way we play over here, Briggs said. Thats the ranking. And the thing about a ranking is, the ranking doesnt mean anything if you dont get to that Super Bowl. Thats the goal, going to the Super Bowl.
The Bears have an NFL-best 19 interceptions. No arguing these teams are awfully close. San Francisco (6-2-1) allows an NFL-low 14.1 points per game, followed by Chicago at 14.8. The Bears have 26 sacks – tied for sixth – to San Franciscos 17.
49ers general manager Trent Baalke kept his entire starting 11 intact from last seasons defense, though linebacker Parys Haralson was lost for the season with a torn triceps muscle.
As far as the president goes, hes our president so you cant say much about who he says is the best, Willis said. Its his hometown, so he has every right to say them, but I guess well see when its all said and done.
Both teams are eager to bounce back – the 49ers from a disappointing 24-point tie, the NFLs first in four years, at home against the division rival Rams last week, and the Bears a 13-6 loss at Houston.
On offense, both teams were busy this week preparing their backups for the key NFC matchup on the big stage after starters Jay Cutler of Chicago and San Franciscos Alex Smith each was lost to a concussion last Sunday.
The Bears will start Jason Campbell. The 49ers are still evaluating Smith, but they could have to start second-year pro Colin Kaepernick.