For almost a decade, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs were considered the top inside linebacker tandem in the NFL. Then last season, a couple of newcomers named Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman came along and snatched that title away.
How does Briggs feel about having to hear and read that the 49ers duo are the top dogs at the position? Briggs, via conference call, started out slowly, but with a couple of defensive mates (including defensive back Charles Tillman) next to him, he eventually built to a crescendo.
"How do I feel about it? Doesn't change the way I play, doesn't change the way we play over here," said Briggs (Elk Grove High). "That's the ranking. And the thing about a ranking is, the ranking doesn't mean anything if you don't get to that Super Bowl. That's the goal, going to the Super Bowl."
"Those are great 'backers," he continued. "I've watched them on film. Patrick -- I've been to the Pro Bowl with him. NaVorro Bowman -- he's on his way. But the way I look at it, over here we've got 15 Pro Bowls between the two of us and probably about eight All-Pros. We'll let that decide for itself." (long whistle in background)
Indeed, the Bears duo has been around for a decade and thus has accumulated more hardware. This season, the 49ers' duo has the edge in tackles -- 153 to 101. But Briggs and Urlacher have forced more turnovers and made big plays of of them, which has been indicative of the Chicago defense this year.
Briggs has forced two fumbles and intercepted two passes, both of which he returned for touchdowns. Urlacher has one interception for a touchdown to go along with 1 forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.
The 49ers' takeaways, which came in a torrent last year, have been reduced to a trickle this year. Both Willis and Bowman have one interception. Willis also has forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. Bowman has no forced fumbles or recoveries.
Does this mean Briggs and Urlacher get their title back?
-- Matt Barrows