Bears Make No Excuses For Uneven Defensive Effort

"We just have to play better, and we will play better," Chuck Pagano says.
By 670 The Score

(670 The Score) Since its rise to prominence in 2018, the Bears defense has carried a high standard.

It's why despite earning a 27-23 victory against the Lions on Sunday in their season opener, the Bears weren't pleased with their defensive effort. It's why they also weren't making any excuses. Though some rust was expected without any preseason games, the Bears expected to be better against the Lions.

Instead, Chicago allowed 426 yards of offense to Detroit. Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 297 yards. Running back Adrian Peterson, 35, rushed 14 times for 93 yards. Detroit had a 23-6 lead on Chicago's defense before the Bears mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter.

Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano won't let his group forget the poor start, even if it was just the first game following a challenging offseason.

"It’d be easy to make those excuses," Pagano said Thursday. "But our guys won’t do it. Coaches won’t do it. I won’t do it. So, you have an opportunity to go out and see exactly where we’re at as a unit.

"We played 70-some snaps. That’s way too many. We have to be better on third down and get off the field. Give up a third-and-10. Give up a third-and-17. That’s just bad ball.

"I have to do a better job of putting them in position to get out of those situations. That’s on me. We just have to play better, and we will play better."

Peterson's performance was one of the most frustrating aspects of the Bears' defensive effort. He signed with the Lions just days before the game and produced the kind of prolific rushing performance that the Bears saw plenty of early in his career when Peterson was with the Vikings.

Bears coach Matt Nagy was especially disappointed by the defense allowing a four-play, 48-yard scoring drive in the final minute of the first half -- which came after the offense went three-and-out after Nagy elected to be aggressive with 1:05 remaining. Instead of running out the clock, the Bears chose to pass and fired two incompletions.

The defense settled in during the second half and pitched a shutout in the fourth quarter as the offense scored 21 unanswered points. Cornerback Kyle Fuller also produced a game-changing interception late in the fourth quarter off a deflection from safety Eddie Jackson, allowing quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to drive the Bears for a go-ahead score.

But the end result didn't temper feelings about the overall performance.

"We have high expectations for ourselves," defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said after the game Sunday. "We look to come out and play ball the way this defense plays football. But we also know that we are human, we are going to make our mistakes, we are going to get beat on a rep. But having the strength and resolve to come back and say, 'Hey, I know what type of player I am and I'm going to show it not only to the cameras and whatnot but my teammates battling with me.'

"That's the essence of our defense. We believe in ourselves, and we know what type of ball we can play. Whenever it comes out, we plan on showing it every Sunday."

The Bears are set to host a Giants team on Sunday whose offense remains a work in progress. Second-year quarterback Daniel Jones flashed potential while also making the mistakes of a rookie in 2019. Star running back Saquon Barkley rushed 15 times for just six yards in New York's 26-16 loss to Pittsburgh on Monday night.

The Bears see Sunday as an opportunity to bounce back defensively.

"We’ll be much better," Pagano said. "I expect a huge leap from Week 1 to Week 2.

"We’re going to play better come Sunday."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.