The Chicago Bears' defense doesn't resemble Lovie Smith's gang or even the unit that took the field in the Week One win over the Bengals.
The Bears (6-5) held Cincinnati to 63 yards on the ground and only three yards per carry.
Since that opening game, the Bears' defense has been pathetic. The injuries took a toll, forcing players off the street and off the practice squad into uniform.
It has been tough for Mel Tucker in his first year as defensive coordinator.
Losing Pro Bowler Henry Melton, up-and-coming Nate Collins at defensive tackle and two starting linebackers (Lance Briggs, D.J. Williams) really set his unit back.
Cornerback Charles Tillman going down just made things worse. On top of that defensive linemen Shea McClellin and Stephen Paea have missed time as well with injuries.
No team is healthy at this point in this season, but the Bears were bruised and beaten from the start and haven't recovered since.
Bears' D by the numbers:
Last in rushing yards allowed per game (145.2), total yards (1,597) and first-downs allowed (89).
31st in the league, behind only the Cowboys in yards per carry (4.9), first-down percentage (27.1) and 20-plus yard runs (12).
Over the last five games, opponents (Washington, Green Bay, Detroit, Baltimore, St. Louis) have run for 999 yards, while averaging 5.8 yards per carry and 197 yards per game.
Eddie Lacy (150 yds, touchdown), Reggie Bush (129 yds, touchdown), Ray Rice (131 yds, touchdown), Zac Stacy/Benny Cunningham (196 yds, two touchdowns) have gashed the Bears over the last four games.
At defensive tackle, undrafted rookie Christian Tupou, journeyman Landon Cohen, and most recently practice squad player Tracey Robertson have all had their number called.
As bad as the defensive line has played at the first level in stopping the run, the linebackers in the second level have struggled mightily.
Veteran James Anderson signed this off-season with the Bears to take Nick Roach's spot at strongside linebacker hasn't been good at all. He recorded his second of the season last week in St. Louis, but he isn't a star by any means.
Anderson received a one-year deal worth $1.25 million, while Roach inked a four-year, $13 million deal with Oakland that will earn him $2.8 million annually from 2014-16.
I think it was a big mistake to let Roach go. The six-year veteran had the ability to play every linebacker position and he would have given rookies, Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene some time to grow instead of being thrown right into the fire.
Roach has played every single defensive snap for the Raiders, while racking up 78 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles.
Bostic and Greene have flashed potential, but like Anderson they have struggled for the most part.
Anderson's main weakness is his inability to shed a block. Bostic and Greene just can't seem to stay in their gaps at times.
Bostic more than Greene because Greene goes off the field in place of Isaiah Frey in nickel situations.
The Bears' defense has allowed eight runs of 30 yards or more. They allowed just two of those all of last season.
A matchup with Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson is looming which means things won't get easier. Peterson has averaged 108 yards per game on the ground against Chicago in his career.
He's gone over the 100-yard mark each of the last three meetings, including the Week Two matchup earlier this season.
"We're going to continue to work at it," said coach Marc Trestman about the Bears' struggling run defense. "There are a lot of teams working in the same environment in the league. We're not going to give up on it. We're going to continue to press the issue. We're going to work harder on it this week and try to get better. We certainly have to. We know what we're up against this week."
Something has got to give for this disappointing Bears' defense.
Defensive end Julius Peppers said it perfectly after the 42-21 blowout in St. Louis, "We’re going to simplify it more than it has been and we’re going to work at it until it is fixed.”
“Obviously, some of the mistakes are repeats. It’s about everybody not being on the same page at the same time," Peppers continued. "If you have 10 guys doing it right, but one guy not doing it right then that’s an explosive play. We have to make sure everybody is on the same page, doing everything right all the time.”
Peppers is right. As bad as the 33-year-old defensive end has played this season (30 tackles, four sacks) he certainly knows what he is talking about.
Now it's just a question of can this Bears' defense fix their run-stopping woes?
A normal week of practice along with some simplification (a Peppers suggestion) can help in the short run.
But can the Bears play more sound? Can they stop anybody over the next five weeks?
Only time will tell, but right now things aren't looking good for Corey Wootton and Co.
There has never been a bigger and better time for this unit to step up. The Bears haven't faced this type of adversity on defense for a long time.
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Filed under: Bear Breakdown