By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – Ty Montgomery, the Packers’ running back converted from receiver, shuffled his feet and waited as the Bears’ defense broke down and hit a gaping hole 37 yards for a touchdown.
The Packers had lined up in the pistol, with fullback Aaron Ripkowski picking up defensive lineman Mitch Unrein, who was let in clean. Bears defensive end Jonathan Bullard was shoved away by left guard David Bakhtiari. Cornerback Prince Amukamara and safety Eddie Jackson were sealed off, while inside linebackers Christian Jones and Nick Kwiatkoski were washed away at the line.
Every defender moved inward, leaving a seam for Montgomery. It was an 11-man breakdown for the Bears that led the Packers to a 10-3 lead in the second quarter of an eventual 23-16 win Sunday. It was also perhaps a play – and game – that could’ve been different with the presence of linebacker Danny Trevathan, who was out with what coach John Fox is calling a calf strain.
Trevathan suffered the injury during a loss in New Orleans on Oct. 29. He didn’t practice in the two workouts before the bye week and was held out all last week in preparation for the Packers. The Bears are waiting to see when Trevathan can return.
“It’s definitely different,” Kwiatkoski said of a Trevathan-less Bears defense. “He’s a guy who can control the field. He’s a playmaker. But injuries, they happen. We can’t skip a beat without him out there. It definitely is different, but it’s football. Injuries happen every week. You got to keep it moving.”
The Bears defense had a poor performance against the Packers, who were playing with backup quarterback Brett Hundley and were later forced to third-string running back Jamaal Williams. Their three running backs – including Aaron Jones, who left with an MCL sprain in the first quarter – combined for 160 yards of rushing against the Bears.
The Bears had frequent breakdowns in communication before the snap, and it wasn’t Aaron Rodgers surgically dissecting them. It was Hundley recognizing pre-snap where the Bears would falter.
That’s where the Bears missed Trevathan as the quarterback of their defense.
“It happens throughout the game,” Kwiatkoski said. “You got offenses hurrying up, slowing it down. You got change in personnel. So it happens from time to time. But nothing that really sticks out yesterday that I can really put my finger on.”
Kwiatkoski is a quality young linebacker making major strides each game. With Jerrell Freeman on injured reserve and perhaps done in a Bears uniform after a 10-game suspension for performance-enhancing drug use, Kwiatkoski is the starter alongside Trevathan. For the most part, Jones has filled in admirably for Trevathan and has strengths to bring the defense, especially in passing situations.
But a player like Trevathan is difficult to replace. He’s still the Bears’ second-leading tackler despite missing a game due to a suspension and Sunday’s contest with the calf injury.
Trevathan has been around Halas Hall working for a recovery, but calf strains can often linger. His effectiveness may not be the same the rest of the season unless the Bears opt to hold him out for several weeks.
If that’s the case, the effectiveness of the Bears defense will continue to be in question as well without their steady presence leading the way.