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ATM: Bears Need Defense to Buy Time

| February 5th, 2020

There are two lessons to be learned from the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl victory.

(1)A great quarterback is the ultimate trump card.

(2) Sometimes it takes a while to find that guy.

Kansas City’s start with Andy Reid was similar to Chicago’s with Matt Nagy. Both exceeded expectations with a playoff appearance in the first year then disappointed the next year. Through two seasons, Andy Reid was 20-12 with Kansas City, the same mark Nagy has with the Bears.

What followed for Kansas City was a number of seasons in which they were quasi-contenders with records of 11-5 and 12-4, thanks largely to their top-10 defense.

While Reid was trying to get whatever he could out of the offense, their defense ranked fifth, second, third and seventh in points allowed his first four years. They were also top 10 in yardage two of those seasons and top 10 in takeaways three times. Even in 2017, when KC’s defense dropped to 15th in scoring and 28th in yards allowed, they were seventh in takeaways and eighth in takeaways in 2018 as their offense exploded.

While much of the focus is on fixing the Bears offense, the reality is their defense is still the key to winning in 2020 and they must buy more time for the offense to get right.

The Bears have questions on their defense going into 2020.

It is possible that HaHa Clinton-Dix returns on another friendly one-year deal. It’s also possible Kevin Toliver II is ready to replace Prince Amukamara — although he was a significant drop off when he played in 2019. The Bears signed CFL star Tre Roberson last week and still have Michael Joseph to compete for that spot. Deon Bush could be brought back to compete at safety.

The Bears have three quality free agent inside linebackers, with Kevin Pierre-Louis making an impact. The club kept both Joel Iyiegbuniwe and Josh Woods coming out of camp last year and it’s hard to believe that was solely because of special teams ability.

And they have pass rush woes, but there’s no easy solution there.

Getting Akiem Hicks back will help, but Hicks has reached a point where he has a lot of mileage and betting on him could be risky. Neither Bilal Nichols nor Roy Robertson-Harris showed us they were ready to be full-time contributors.

The San Francisco 49ers were able to slow Mahomes simply because they were unblockable and we saw how dangerous having two pass-rushing edge players can be in Green Bay. At this point, we know Leonard Floyd isn’t going to be a 10-sack guy.

In the unlikely event that the Bears are willing to move on from Floyd, they could pursue Dante Fowler Jr., but the more likely scenario is convincing a veteran to take a reduced role. Everson Griffen could make the NFC North really interesting if he were willing to do that, assuming the Vikings decline his $14.5 million option.

This doesn’t mean the Bears should ignore their offense. There’s a good chance they can find upgrades at tight end and right guard and a really good chance they can add an explosive wide receiver. Those are all building blocks for whoever the franchise quarterback ends up being. But, until they find that guy, they’re probably just treading water, hoping to be above average.

It’s easy to say that the Bears have to find their version of Mahomes or Lamar Jackson, but those type of players don’t exist in every draft. Even if they do, they’re typically high picks or diamonds in the rough. The odds don’t favor the Bears finding one in 2020.

Whether it’s Trubisky, Nick Foles or Andy Dalton, the Bears aren’t going to win unless the defense plays at an elite level.

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