By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – The football floating in the air for what seemed like days, with the Bears positioned to make a play.
Cornerback Kyle Fuller was in stride with Vikings receiver Stephon Diggs, while safety Adrian Amos was waiting over the top this last Monday. Opportunity was once again knocking for the Bears. But Amos mistimed his jump, Fuller could only jostle with Diggs and the ball fell to the Soldier Field sod.
A Bears defense with lofty aspirations has forced just three turnovers this season and made zero interceptions. A year after recording only eight interceptions and forcing three fumbles – both of which ranked dead last in the league – the Bears are tied for second-to-last in takeaways.
“It’s frustrating,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Obviously, we’d like to get them. We need them as a team. It would help everybody if we could get some, especially if we can get them where it turns the field around and we can give a short field to our offense.”
Fangio is widely touted throughout the NFL as one of the game’s best defensive minds. His reputation preceded him before his arrival in Chicago in 2015. With the 49ers, Fangio developed a unit that annually ranked near the top in all categories.
The Bears are minus-33 in turnover margin ever since the start of 2015, when Fangio took over and the John Fox era began. The front office has revamped the defense with new pieces up front and maneuvered in the secondary, but it hasn’t changed the results in the turnover category.
The pass rush of Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Leonard Floyd and Pernell McPhee isn’t forcing enough poor throws, and defensive back additions like Eddie Jackson, Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper have failed to make interceptions along with the rest of the team.
For nearly a decade-and-a-half, the Bears won games with takeaways in key moments. But they don’t have a Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs or Charles Tillman on this defense.
All that Fangio can do is put his players in the right position. He can’t go out and punch the football loose or time that jump right in coverage.
The Bears have added better talent on defense, and while injuries have again taken their toll, it’s a group that was expected to impact games.
“We definitely got to get better at that,” McPhee said. “That’s a challenge for me and everybody else on the defense. That’s what we’ve got to do — no matter if we (are) the No. 1 defense in the league as far as yardage, we need turnovers. We’ve got to start creating them.”
Early last week, the Bears officially made the move from veteran quarterback Mike Glennon to rookie Mitchell Trubisky, with coach John Fox citing the fact that his team ranked dead last in turnover ratio. While Glennon’s eight giveaways were of course mostly responsible, there’s a frustration for how this team has failed to play complementary football.
Trubisky is now starting at quarterback, with the Bears needing to help him in all aspects. That includes the defense.
“If we could get turnovers, that means we could put our offense in great field position, and we haven’t been doing that,” McPhee said.
The Bears have certainly emphasized taking away the football. Once a week, defensive backs coach Ed Donatell presents a video that shows the best points to pop out the football for each week’s opponent. Little details are offered up like which players are most prone to mistakes with the ball and how the Bears can take advantage.
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of timing a jump right and making a play.
“It’s always a focus,” Hicks said. “It’s always something we want to get better at. We just got to keep climbing.”