Bears

Defense deserves credit and blame for Carolina result

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Defense deserves credit and blame for Carolina result

The defense has been the answer for Bears problems in 2012. But while everyone was staring at the offense in the three-quarters debacle against the Carolina Panthers, the defense was a question.

Indeed, blame defense for no small part of the mess that the Bears found themselves in against the Panthers. While the offense couldnt stay on it, the defense couldnt get off it.

Like the offense, the defense turned its game on and around in the fourth quarter. A three-and-out plus Tim Jennings game-changing interception helped save the afternoon.

But the defense held the Carolina offense without a first down on only one of the first nine possessions. For the game, the Panthers had six drives of 45 yards or longer and Carolina sustained drives of eight (twice) 11, 12 and 17 yards, part of why the Panthers after three quarters held a 369-61 advantage in yards and were on the field effectively 30 of the first 45 minutes.

Field goals, schmield goals

The feel-good perspective would be that none of those drives ended in touchdowns. The defense held the Panthers to field goals.

Even when things werent going well, defensively we kept them to field goals and didnt let them get as many touchdowns, said coach Lovie Smith.

When someone drives 80, 74 and 63 yards on you, and drives from their 20 for a late go-ahead field goal, you didnt hold them to anything.

With the game in its hands after Tim Jennings interception, the defense allowed the Panthers to control the ball for 11 plays and move down the field for a go-ahead field goal with a little more than 2 minutes to play, albeit with 15 yards of help on a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty on Israel Idonije.

The Bears ran just 53 total plays on offense; that was a problem. The Panthers ran 77 plays; that was a bigger problem. Only the Detroit Lions (84, second 2011 game) and New England Patriots 78) had more snaps in regulation over the last two-and-a-half seasons.

As ineffectual as the offense was, that groups failure to stay on the field isnt an excuse for the defense dragging. The 17-play and one of the eights were in the second quarter, and the Panthers wet 80 yards in 12 plays on their first possession of the third quarter, after the defense had halftime and a couple minutes of Bears possession to rest.

If the defense was tired on those drives, the strength and conditioning coach should be fired (he shouldnt).

How they think

The Lovie SmithRod Marinelli scheme is sometimes characterized as bend-dont-break. Not exactly.

The front four plays a one-gap, up-the-field attack approach. It is not a wide-body, two-gap style. Behind them, the mindset is about controlling the game.

Sooner or later somebody is going to make a play, Jennings said. We know its tough to drive the field on us. Were going to give up plays but we want to keep things in front of us and hopefully theyre going to break before we do. Thats our mentality.

The problem on Sunday was that the Panthers werent breaking. Carolina converted seven of its first 12 third downs and had 10 plays of 15 yards or longer; the Bears had three.

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents. 

That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?

The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room). 

So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure. 

Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return. 

“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”

If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length. 

Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.