Bears safety Mike Brown, never one to mince words, said the Bears defense is the “weak link” and that in order to get where they want to be, they need to start pulling their weight.

“It’s time for the defense to step up, man,” Brown said. “We’re tired of being the weak link. We’re used to being the strong link, and right now we’re definitely the weak link on this team.”

At 5-3 and in first place in the NFC North, the Bears have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs this year. They’ve earned respect nationwide as they’re in — or near — the top third of most national power rankings. But it’s mostly the offense that’s put them in that position, and, as Brown says, the defense needs to do their part to ensure the Bears play in January.

“For us to be successful as far as getting to the playoffs and being successful in the playoffs, it’s up to the defense, so we’re hoping and preparing to play great defense.”

Brown and the defense will get the opportunity to prove they’re still capable of playing well when they face the NFL’s lone unbeaten team, the Tennessee Titans, this Sunday at Soldier Field. They’ll have a stiff test as the Titans are 3rd in the league with 149 rushing yards per game, and average 24.9 points per game, which is exactly three points less than the Bears’ offense averages.

“It’s a big game for us,” Brown said. “I think emotionally we’re going to be very high and play with a lot of intensity, and I think that’s something sometimes that this team is missing, especially on the defensive side of the ball.”

Brown practiced on a limited basis Thursday and hopes to play against the Titans this week. He left the Lions game in the first half with a calf injury and did not return for the second half.