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ATM: Reason to Distrust the Defense

| December 4th, 2018

The Bears had the Giants in a third-and-23. Even a 20-yard run means New York is punting and the Bears are either going to block it, return it or sit on it and go into halftime with a touchdown lead. Matt Nagy called timeout. It was the kind of aggressive decision we’ve longed for Bears coaches to make.

It didn’t work. Because Nagy learned something we all learned: this defense can’t be trusted.

The vaunted unit folded on the next two plays and then continuously throughout the second half. If it felt like we were watching a re-run it’s because we were. This is the third time the defense — which is supposed to carry the team — absolutely crumbled.

At their best, the Bears defense is legitimately great. But they still might be underachieving. Performances like Sunday (and Miami, and Green Bay) just can’t happen if the Bears are going to be truly relevant this year.

The Bears had a top ten defensive unit last year before adding a top ten draft pick and one of the three best defensive players in the history of the universe. They’ve made a jump, but there are these weird games that are just indefensible and one has to wonder what will happen when the Bears go up against one of the league’s great offenses.

Make no mistake, the Bears can stop the Rams, Saints or Chiefs. They absolutely have the talent to get the job done. But that doesn’t mean they will. And it’s hard to pinpoint what the exact problem is.

  • The pass rush disappears for long periods of time. While Khalil Mack is getting tripled, nobody else is winning. Leonard Floyd has been better in recent weeks, but there’s still little evidence that he can beat a block and he still has two fewer quarterback hits than Aaron Lynch, who has been a ghost after a strong start.
  • Broken coverages cost the team two touchdowns against the Giants.
  • Far too often we’ve seen crappy tackling.

The Bears are allowing 20.1 points per game, which would rank them fifth among the defenses from the Lovie Smith era. (Let’s not even get into the ’80s Bears.) Yeah, yeah, it’s a different game. Defense is harder to play. But Lovie’s teams also didn’t have the advantage of playing with a top ten offensive unit, which is what the Bears were before Mitch Trubisky was injured. Even last week, the offense scored 27 points and got the game to overtime, only for the defense to give up the eventual game-winning score without much of a fight.

This defense is supposed to be great. And they can be great, but they fold in the second half consistently and it’s holding the team back.

Before anyone says “it’s only three games” let’s not forget that they’ve only played 12. That’s a quarter of the season that the defense has just crapped all over itself. Even in games they’ve won — like Detroit and Minnesota — the defense allowed late scores that made the games more interesting than they should have been.

Perhaps they’re not in good enough shape?

Or they aren’t making adequate adjustments?

Whether or not we can trust this defense is no longer a debate, it’s unquestionably an issue. If they have any chance of making noise in the playoffs, the defense has to be great; at least as great as the Saints and Rams are on offense.

This is who the Bears are, but it’s not who they have to be. This defense has great talent, now it’s time to become a great defense.

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