By Dan Bernstein
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) — Hoping the other team fumbles is not a strategy.
Neither is praying that the opposing quarterback is stupid or reckless enough to throw one right to you.
Sadly, that’s all that constitutes defensive planning for the Chicago Bears right now, the only two ways they can stop anyone. It matters not the name on any jersey, the down and distance, the formation or the matchups.
The Bears get blocked, and stay blocked.
They miss tackles, they take bad angles, they lose contain. They over-pursue, get shoved away by receivers, misjudge the depth of their zone drops and stop their feet in open space.
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258 rushing yards for the Rams on only 29 attempts. That’s 8.9 yards per carry, which is college stuff – too much like Wisconsin over Indiana to be anything less than a total embarrassment for an NFL team. And it was 261 on 26 before three straight kneel-downs to end the game, an average of 10.03. Zac Stacy had 87 on 12 before getting knocked out, so rookie Benny Cunningham replaced him and ripped off 109 on 13. Receiver Tavon Austin started the onslaught in foreboding fashion by racing 65 yards for a score on a cleverly-designed toss on the third play from scrimmage.
Such intolerable performance overwhelms everything else that went awry, like the ten penalties that made it 23 total in the last two weeks, Michael Bush’s tentative short-yardage happy feet, and offensive tackles routinely beaten by simple speed-rushes.
This one is on defensive tackles that lost nearly every battle at the point of attack, linebackers both moved out of gaps and beaten when met there, and defensive backs late off their deep landmarks. Even when they tried to roll an eighth man up in run support, they merely built a juice box – one left drained and discarded, to be crushed underfoot.
Julius Peppers now only reminds us of how good he once was and how much money he makes. After a rejuvenated performance last week his impact was sorely needed, and never came. One tackle.
Shea McClellin matched Peppers’ statistical output, registering a single tackle of his own to go along with no sacks or assists or anything else. He was a direct target in the run game, still lacking the necessary, functional strength to define a proper edge.
Marc Trestman and Mel Tucker could point to injuries forcing lesser players into action, mentioning the absences of two under-tackles, two veteran linebackers and the franchise’s best-ever cornerback. They won’t, however, and they shouldn’t. Even this group should not be this bad, not considering the starting safeties and valued draft picks still involved. Not going up against a replacement-level quarterback of middling skill with marginal weapons at his disposal in the passing game.
Others will reach to invoke history, I’m sure, hearkening back to list names of Chicago’s defensive stalwarts from eras past, decrying some violation of civic responsibility – a failure to uphold a great, traditional legacy shared with any number of predecessors now either rolling in their graves, collapsing in their soup, flinging half-lit cigar butts in musty living rooms, or ranting on postgame shows.
But this is about the present, and the repeated failures at every level to accomplish something so critical to winning. Even at 6-5 and still hopeful to compete for a division title – incredibly – this kind of exposure takes off the table any real aspirations.
There were few optimistic answers in the postgame locker room, and no satisfying explanations. There are certainly no excuses.
For the Bears, right now, there is no defense.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.