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Checking the Tape: Eberflus’ Defense Closes vs. Detroit

| December 12th, 2023

This Defense Is Starting To Feel It

Matt Eberflus’ transformation into Cover 3 Mike Zimmer has been an awesome thing to watch, and Sunday’s Detroit game had plenty of examples of Eberflus’ handiwork.

On this early 3rd & 10, Chicago sends a 6-man blitz paired with man coverage on the back end. Kyler Gordon recognizes Detroit’s pre-snap short motion, passes his assignment to Jaylon Johnson, and from there the back-7 executes flawlessly. When this defense is executing together, it’s a beautiful thing to watch.

https://twitter.com/robertkschmitz/status/1734334221009797410

Flus Has Gone Wild With Pressure Looks

Gone are the days of Matt Eberflus calling static drop-7 coverages on 3rd or 4th & longs — if Flus isn’t afraid of your Quarterback, he’ll send pressure (and plenty of it) on any down.

On an early Lions 4th & 10, Chicago walked 7 defenders up to the line of scrimmage & sent everyone but TJ Edwards (including Kyler Gordon blitzing from the slot) at Goff for a total of 7 flying Bears. Eberflus dared Jared Goff to make more than a half-field read and Goff couldn’t do it — instead, he threw his 4th pick against Chicago in only 2 meetings. Pretty work all around.

Flus got so blitz-happy as the game went on that he even blitzed on all 3 downs in a few series, prompting Detroit to adapt to the extra rushers. Detroit pounded the rock to escape the blitz & converted a few screens and swing passes, but Flus stuck to his gameplan and reaped rewards for doing so. His defense ultimately battered Goff, forcing hurries, sacks, and turnovers as the game wore on.

Give Eberflus his credit, he’s earning it.

Andrew Billings is Still a Brick House

Billings’ high-effort play is a fun watch every single week, and it didn’t take long for him to make his presence known on Sunday. He was a constant problem on run downs…

…and on passing downs, his quickness forced a tripping call early that let to another stalled Lions drive.

How a man his size moves like he does is beyond me — I’m very glad he’s already extended. A true trench grinder.

Big-Time Players Make Big-Time Plays

Few plays shifted the game quite like Chicago’s late 4th down stop, but take a look at how Chicago killed the Lions’ rally.

The Lions want to use misdirection (Counter) to catch the Bears overflowing, but their play calls for tight ends to block Montez Sweat and Jack Sanborn on the line of scrimmage. Sweat immediately penetrates, forcing Gibbs wide, and Jack Sanborn beats a pair of blockers to set up a game-swinging tackle for loss.

It’s a gorgeous play by Sanborn with a nice assist by Sweat. Sanborn has been an impressive run defender all year — nice to see him shine on one of the game’s biggest plays.

Gervon Dexter Keeps Flashing as a Pass Rusher

Dexter continues to pop as a pass rusher every single week — he’s still finding his consistency as an NFL run defender, but his size, speed, and violence are creating issues for his opponents when he gets the chance to rush the quarterback.

Dexter was credited with a 20% Pass Rush Win Rate and 3 total pressures via PFF, 1st & 2nd most on the Bears’ D-Line respectively. Not bad for a developing rookie.

Jaquan Brisker Shut the Door

I’ve been critical of Brisker in the past, but the Bears’ box safety was a tackling machine throughout the game on Sunday & was a primary force in stopping the Lions’ rushing attack. But eventually, as a DB, he’ll be defined by what he does in coverage — thankfully, he closed the game out in emphatic fashion.

A pair of pass breakups and a lockdown rep in coverage helped snuff out whatever faint hope the Lions held onto in the late 4th quarter. Hopefully we can continue to see Brisker grow as the season rolls on.

Overall, it was a strong day for Chicago’s defense — they mixed up their looks in the front 7 while primarily playing Cover 1 man & Cover 3 zone, ultimately winning enough matchups to choke out a good Lions offense. Plenty of players didn’t get mentioned in today’s column, but it’s not for a lack of highlights — Tremaine Edmunds, TJ Edwards, Tyrique Stevenson, and Eddie Jackson all had moments in the sun alongside everyone described above.

They’ve got a big test coming next weekend against the Browns — Chicago’s offense could struggle to score points, so shutting down Joe Flacco and the Browns’ attack will be key to taking home a win. And with playoff hopes suddenly alive in Chicago, this defense has a chance to assert itself as one of the league’s best — win on Sunday, and Chicago will firmly enter ‘The Hunt”.

Your Turn: What did you see in the defense’s performance on Sunday? 

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