The Chicago Bears’ defense had been the strength of the team for the entire season. They were the No. 1 defense in the NFL during the regular season and it wasn’t even close. The Bears were almost two times better than the next best defense in fact, but things were different in Sunday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now, before we go any further, the Bears defense was not the reason they lost on Sunday. However, they didn’t play as well as we’ve seen this year. At times, it didn’t look like the same defense we watched all season long.
Obviously, the Eagles deserve a lot of credit for that. Their gameplan against the Bears’ defense was solid. And, yes, the Bears’ defense only gave up 16 points, but it’s not about how many points they gave up, it’s about how they gave up the points.
What happened? I’ll attempt to answer that question right here.
The Bears intercepted Nick Foles twice on Sunday and that number would have been higher if safety Eddie Jackson would have played. Foles threw so many floaters on Sunday that could have been easily picked. Why was Jackson active? Mostly likely as a decoy, especially because of the phantom Trey Burton groin injury.
There is no doubt in my mind the game is different if Jackson was 100% healthy, but in the playoffs, you have to be ready to go without your star players. For the most part, the Bears did a good job, but they could have used Jackson, who had a dominant 2018 season.
One of the reasons the Bears’ defense has been so good is because of their ability to play disciplined, legal football. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. Prince Amukamara was flagged a few times for pass interference, while safety Adrian Amos had a silly personal foul called against him on a late helmet-to-helmet hit on TE Zach Ertz, who dropped the ball well before the hit.
If Amos wouldn’t have hit Ertz, the Bears force a three and out and get the ball back. Instead, the Eagles would later go on to score a touchdown on another error by the Bears’ defense.
Call the NFL soft or whatever you want to do, the play was dumb and kept the Eagles’ drive alive.
On that same drive, Amos was left alone to cover the Eagles’ other TE Dallas Goedert. The problem was the Bears only had 10 men on the field. The result was an easy TD by the Eagles. That is bad coaching, whether it be on defensive coordinator Vic Fangio or one of his assistants on the sideline.
You can see that Amos is clearly confused before the play. For whatever reason, the Bears didn’t call timeout either.
This appeared to be the moment Adrian Amos realized the Bears had only 10 men on the field for Dallas Goedert’s touchdown pic.twitter.com/UWfs574fIp
— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) January 7, 2019
The Bears are missing a nickel corner on this play, which is pretty important when playing in nickel coverage. Yes, Amos gets beaten badly, but it wasn’t entirely his fault. Still, he showed me enough bad on Sunday that proved once again that the Bears may be better off finding a better, less expensive option at the position.
Lack of Pass Rush
Give credit to the Eagles’ offensive line. Both Lane Johnson and Jason Peters were fantastic on Sunday. Peters in particular against Khalil Mack, who had one of his most quiet games of the season against the Eagles.
Peters is a nine-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer for a reason, and he proved that again on Sunday.
The Bears vicious defensive line had just one sack on Nick Foles, which was simply not good enough considering the season they had.
Coming Up Short on the Biggest Drive of the Season
The Bears’ offense didn’t do the defense any favors by going three and out on the possession before, but the defense still had a chance to put the Eagles away. They just came up short. On what would later be the game-winning drive, Foles and the Eagles picked up multiple long third downs, including one in the red zone to former Bear, Alshon Jeffery.
On fourth down, Foles made an incredible throw to Golden Tate to put the Eagles up. I don’t care how you want to spin it, the Bears defense failed on the biggest drive of the season. There’s no other way around it.
Cornerback should have been playing outside leverage on the sprint pass to Tate. Unfortunately, that was one of the things the game came down to. Well, that and a missed kick, but everyone expected the Bears’ defense to come up with a stop at some point on that drive. That’s what they’ve done all season long.
No one expected a long touchdown drive, but that’s exactly what happened.
Again, the Bears’ offense didn’t do the defense any favors in the first half. With the season on the line and late in the fourth quarter, Mitch Trubisky and the offense did what they needed to for the most part. The defense did not. That’s what it comes down to.
There were also other things that happened in the game like the Amos penalty, having 10 men on the field, and Peters dominating Mack. The Bears’ defense just wasn’t the same on Sunday. While they did give up just 16 points and played well enough to win, they were not great like they had been all season long.
Follow Nick on Twitter @PetroTLS