ATM: Don’t Let the Defense Off the Hook for Monday Night Debacle

| October 28th, 2020

Last week began with comparisons between the 2020 and 2018 Chicago Bears defenses. This week begins with us finding there is no comparison.

There are two simple truths about Monday night’s beat down:

One. The Bears couldn’t realistically expect to win by scoring just three offensive points.

Two. The Bears couldn’t realistically expect to win by allowing 24 points.

Only one offense this season has scored more than 24 points against the Rams. That came in a weird Week Three game as the then-red hot Buffalo Bills took a huge lead early. Since then, the Rams have allowed 10 or fewer points in three of four — Monday night included. (As you read that, keep in mind that the Bears haven’t held a single opponent to 10 or fewer points yet this season.)

To win on Monday night, the Bears needed the game to be a low-scoring slugfest. Their offense looked only slightly worse than we should’ve expected going against a top-five defense. The Bears defense, however, couldn’t get off the field in the first three quarters allowing drives that either resulted in scores or flipped the field, leaving the offense in an inopportune position. Five of the Bears first six drives began inside their own 20. For the game, they had eight drives start inside their own 20 and five inside the 10. Imagine how fun that is for Nick Foles when the team is asking Rashaad Coward to block Aaron Donald.

The “bend but don’t break” mentality is fine, but when going against a top-10 defense on the other side, the Bears need their unit to the control of the game. Instead, they allowed the Rams to have at least 24 yards on each of their first eight possessions, including an 80-yard touchdown drive that put the game away.

For the better part of the first three quarters, the Rams were averaging close to seven yards per play. They didn’t get a single three-and-out or takeaway until they were already down 21 points.

The offense is awful; that has been beaten to death. It’s not going to get better. The defense should be better though. It’s fun to say the Bears are 5-2 because of their defense, but that’s intentionally omitting the fact that they had to score 27 points to win their first game and 30 to win their third. If they’re going to consistently ask the offense to score 25 or more points, they’re not going anywhere.

It’s also fun to say that the offense has contributed to the defense’s struggles, but that’s just a lazy excuse. The Bears are 6th in defensive DVOA and 26th offensively, the team directly ahead of them defensively is Washington, which is 29th offensively. The team directly behind them is Denver, which is 31st offensively. In fact, six of the top seven teams in defensive DVOA rank in the bottom half of the league offensively. The Bears have more talent than all of them.

The Bears have the second-most salary cap space invested in their defense and that’s with a top-10 and a top-50 pick on rookie contracts. Instead of setting the tone against the Rams, they watched as Leonard Floyd got more sacks against them than Robert Quinn has all season.

Realistic expectations should’ve had the Bears in the top 20 offensively — they are 20th in spending on that side of the ball — and the defense should be in the top three. It isn’t a stretch to say both units are underperforming.

As it stands today, the Bears are seventh in points allowed, 10th in yardage, 15th in takeaways and sixth in DVOA. They have been really good on third downs and in the red zone — ranking second and first — but this is far from the dominant unit we saw in 2018. That defense would shut teams down and, unfortunately, that kind of dominance is exactly what the Bears need.

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