ATM: Bears Defense Must Fix Run-Stopping Issues to Meet Expectations

| September 29th, 2020

The Chicago Bear recipe for a successful 2020 season always included one absolute necessity: great defense. Three games into the season, they’ve been far from great.

The rankings? They don’t look that bad.

  • 9th in points allowed.
  • 12th in takeaways.
  • 15th in yardage.
  • Allowed the fewest passing touchdowns: 2. (two)
  • 2nd in opponent passer rating (71.4), despite playing three solid quarterbacks.

The biggest problem is the run defense, as the Bears have allowed a shocking five yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns. And numbers alone don’t tell the story.

The statistics don’t tell you about how in each of the Bears first three games, the other team was missing its best offensive player. They don’t tell you about the dropped touchdown in Detroit or the fourth down failures that allowed the Giants to get within 10 yards of a win. The numbers don’t tell you that Atlanta was without two of its top three wide receivers for the second half and went uber-conservative.

(In fairness, they also don’t tell you about the bad calls that took a pick-six away, or two very iffy roughing the passer penalties — one of which took away a strip sack. But you can bet every team has similar arguments.)

There is an eye test element to everything.

Unlike past years, the Bears just don’t look fast. This is similar to the start of 2018, but those issues were mostly attributable to early-season conditioning issues. It’s hard to remember a time when the Bears defense was just flat-out getting outplayed as thoroughly as they were against Atlanta and Detroit.

The flashes are still there, but the Bears need more than flashes from the unit. They’re the third highest-paid defense in the league per OverTheCap and have both a top ten and a top fifty pick on rookie contracts. Being a fringe top-10 unit isn’t good enough.

Losing Eddie Goldman prior to the season was a tough blow, one they’ll likely have to make a roster change to overcome. The hope was that John Jenkins, Bilal Nichols and Brent Urban could all help, but the Bears run defense has been worse when those three are on the field, according to NFLGSIS.

It doesn’t seem that Snacks Harrison is going to play in 2020; he was debating retirement even before the COVID-19 pandemic. If he does play, he seems more likely to sign with a more likely Super Bowl contender than the Bears. Marcell Dareus might be a more reasonable option, but there hasn’t been much interest in him.

Perhaps Roy Robertson-Harris might be an interesting trade piece for a team. RRH isn’t doing much for the Bears right now and has always been a liability against the run. They have Mario Edwards who can fill his nickel-pass rusher position. Perhaps Danny Trevathan will overcome whatever is slowing him down so dramatically. Perhaps Chuck Pagano will make adjustments more quickly in-game.

Whatever the Bears need to do, they need to do. Swapping out Trubisky for Foles will make the offense better, but it surely won’t be enough to make this offense one of the league’s best. They don’t have the talent for that. The defense does.

The Bears will see a number of dynamic rushing attacks moving forward, beginning this week against Indianapolis. Later this season they’ll have the Rams, Saints, Titans, Vikings (twice) and Packers (twice). If Detroit and Atlanta’s crappy run offenses can gash the Bears, what will they do?

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