Stats Tell a Grim Story About Bears Defense.................
Statistics tell grim tale about Bears defense
Unit simply giving up too much ground
By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune reporter 9:12 p.m. CDT, October 7, 2011
This Bears defense has faced adversity before.
Just when it looks like things are turning bleak, the defense always has arisen to remain the backbone of the franchise, something to carry the team during Lovie Smith's tenure while the offense has been erratic even in times of prosperity.
The Bears (2-2) might have reached one of those points as they enter their Week 5 game Monday night in Detroit ranked 31st in the NFL in yards allowed.
Sure, that's not the most telling statistic available. But to give up a lot of yards, the Bears have to give up a lot of big plays or be bad on third down. Both areas have been problems. While the Panthers converted only 2 of 12 third downs last week, they rolled up 543 yards, the most the Bears have allowed in 29 seasons.
Moreover, across the board, the statistics aren't pretty. The Bears are tied for 20th in points allowed at 24.5 per game, 28th in defensive snaps, 27th in yards per play and tied for 19th with only eight sacks.
"Given up a lot of points and yards, which isn't a good thing," middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "Luckily, we've managed to win two of those games. We're not making big plays, we're giving up too many long runs, too many long passes.
"We're just not doing the things we normally do. Sometimes we're not running to the football, we're not catching the balls that are thrown to us like we usually do. It's all fixable."
While opponents have rushed for 100 yards or more in each of the first four games, the most alarming statistic involves pass defense. Smith's Cover-2 scheme is designed to prevent big plays. The safeties keep the receivers in front of them, and when a play is made, the idea is to swarm the receiver.
The Bears allowed 44 pass plays of 20 or more yards last season. They have surrendered 17 already, putting them on pace for 68. That's a big chunk of yardage.
"We gave up a lot of yards against the Falcons too; we just won the game," weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs said. "It hasn't been typical of the type of defense we've played or we're supposed to play to be among the top defenses in the league."
The Bears say it's a matter of failing to execute, not anything opponents are doing, dispelling the idea that anyone has a blueprint to defeat a coverage every team in the league uses in some fashion.
"The only warning signs you see are when you turn the tape on and you see the mistakes, and the fact that guys aren't in their gaps, guys aren't playing as violent as they need to play," Briggs said. "There are things that we need to do defensively that start right here (points at himself). When we do that — and we'll do that this week — we'll get back on track."
The Bears put stock in the Troy Aikman Efficiency Ratings, a tool the Hall of Fame quarterback devised to reflect qualities that lead to victories. He measures yards per rush, yards per pass, third-down conversions, total first downs, adjusted points, red-zone performance and turnovers. The Bears are 21st using his formula.
So stack up the numbers any way you like, the Bears' stats are not conducive to winning football, especially against a Lions offense Aikman ranks sixth. Yes, the Bears have played talented offenses each week — the Falcons, Saints, Packers and Panthers — but at some point you have to wonder if the unit is showing early signs of decline.
It's easy to point to the safeties' poor performance for the big pass plays, but the pass rush has been sluggish. Defensive end Julius Peppers hasn't taken over a game, and his linemates aren't getting the hustle sacks we've seen.
Briggs warned not to single out the safeties.
"It's tough on the whole back seven if we're not getting quarterbacks down or we're not getting enough pressure," he said. "All the blame doesn't go to the safeties; it goes to us collectively.
"Yes, there are plays where the safety should have been over the top, but there are also plays where time breaks down coverage. We're all to blame."
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