Gabriel: Should Bears Be Concerned About Their Defense?

October 23, 2018 - 11:15 am
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(670 The Score) The Bears appeared to have one of the league's most dominating defenses through the first four weeks. 

Since then, it hasn't looked close to the same in a 31-28 overtime loss to the Dolphins and a 38-31 loss to the Patriots. So why the sudden change? The reasons are multi-faceted.

On a three-game winning streak, the Bears didn't have a bye at an ideal time in Week 5. Coach Matt Nagy gave the team a whole week off, the same philosophy that his mentor, Andy Reid, has long used. We'll never know if a couple days of light practice would've been more beneficial for the Bears, but their rhythm was clearly affected.

Chicago's loss at Miami came in the heat and humidity after the Bears had been working in cooler weather at home. In my experience working in the NFL, I've seen drastic climate changes have a huge effect on players, who are particularly bothered by the humidity. The Bears didn't look like their usual selves in the loss to the Dolphins, appearing tired and showing little aggressiveness. They were spent by the second half and lost focus, contributing to mental mistakes as well as physical ones. Weather wasn't the deciding factor in Miami as the Chicago defense missed far too many tackles and made mistakes, but it was a factor.

The Bears' loss to the Patriots was an entirely different story, as their defense was simply outplayed by Tom Brady and New England. The Bears had been in attack mode early on in the season, but rather than pressure Brady by being more aggressive, they decided to play coverage.

Bears star pass rusher Khalil Mack was used as a pass rusher fewer than 15 times as he was hampered by an ankle injury. Fellow linebacker Leonard Floyd also dropped into coverage more than he rushed Brady.

I understand the philosophy of defending Brady that way, but I disagree with it. Playing coverage took away from what the Bears do best -- rush the passer. With Mack and Floyd dropping, Brady completed 25 of 36 passes, with nine of those receptions going to running backs who were beating linebackers in coverage. While Brady has one of the quickest releases in football, he's not all that mobile. 

Despite the recent struggles of the Bears defense, I believe the unit can recover its better early season form quickly. The Jets visit Solider Field on Sunday, then Chicago plays at Buffalo the next week. The best way to get over a slump is to play a lesser foe, and the schedule sets up for that.

The Jets are 26th in total offense, and I don't think they're as good as their 3-4 record even indicates. Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold has flashed his potential at times, but he has also thrown 10 interceptions and been sacked 16 times. He will make mistakes when pressured. 

The Bills are 31st in total offense and will likely have rookie quarterback Josh Allen back against the Bears. While he has a big arm, he's also been indecisive and prone to mistakes. Beyond that, Buffalo's offensive line and recovering corps are awful.

So is there something wrong with the Bears defense? Not really. It's just a matter of getting back to what they do well, and that should be coming in quick order with two get-well games.

Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who's an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.​​​