President Barack Obama has already given his hometown Chicago Bears the nod for best defense in the NFL.
Niners 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. “Chicago’s defense, they’re playing very well right now. They have some tremendous talent on that side of the ball, but they’re playing great team defense right now. Kudos to them. But at the same time, too, we have our own defense to worry about that we’re trying to continue to make better. That’s our focus.”
Chicago’s 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 season’s 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 unit’s chemistry “special.”
The Bears (7-2) boast the talented linebacker tandem of Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. On the 49ers side, it’s 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 at Candlestick Park.
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? Doesn’t change the way I play, doesn’t change the way we play over here,” Briggs said.
“The thing about a ranking is, the ranking doesn’t mean anything if you don’t get to that 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 Francisco’s 17.
49ers general manager Trent Baalke kept his entire starting 11 intact from last season’s defense, though linebacker Parys Haralson was lost for the season with a torn triceps muscle.
“As far as the president goes, he’s our president so you can’t say much about who he says is the best,” Willis said. “It’s his hometown, so he has every right to say them, but I guess we’ll see when it’s all said and done.”
Both teams are eager to bounce back — the 49ers from a disappointing 24-24 tie, the NFL’s first in four years, at home against the division rival Rams last week, and the Bears a 13-6 loss at Houston.