Bears

A gassed Bears defense needs to prove loss to Miami was an aberration

A gassed Bears defense needs to prove loss to Miami was an aberration

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Through the first four games of 2018, the Bears’ defense allowed on average 295 yards per game, 5.1 yards per play, 3.9 yards per run, a 33 percent third down conversion rate and 16 points per game.

Sunday’s 31-28 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins was, with that backdrop, a bloodbath of an aberration. Or so the Bears hope.

The Dolphins — quarterbacked by Brock Osweiler, who’s been more of a punchline than a threat over the last few years — racked up 541 yards, averaged 7.2 yards per play and 5.2 yards per run and converted eight of 17 third downs (47 percent) en route to score more points in one afternoon than the Bears had allowed in their last two games.

“Everybody knows that’s not the type of defense we play — we don’t miss tackles, I don’t think we’ve ever had that during the whole season,” safety Eddie Jackson said. “We gotta come in and work on that and get ready for next week.”

It wasn’t just that the Bears allowed that level of production — it was how it happened. Albert Wilson had 155 yards on six catches, and turned a pair of short passes into 43- and 75-yard touchdowns, both of which led to Miami tying the game in the fourth quarter. Frank Gore carved up 101 yards on 15 carries, with a Miami offensive line missing its starting left guard and center generating an excellent push for the future Hall of Famer.

“It all starts with stopping the run,” outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who suffered an ankle injury but stayed in Sunday’s game, said. “I feel like we didn’t do a good enough job with that today.”

Gore’s 100-yard game was the first by a running back against the Bears since Latavius Murray hit that mark in Week 5 of 2017, and Miami’s success on the ground did open up plenty for Osweiler.

But that doesn’t completely explain how the Bears didn’t notch a sack and only were credited with four quarterback hurries (the Dolphins committed, and succeeded, to selling out to stop Mack’s pass rush). It doesn’t explain how poor the Bears’ tackling angles were all afternoon, and how many missed tackles this group piled up when they did get in position (anecdotally, it felt like a Dolphins player hurdled a Bears defender at least once a quarter).

“I missed a couple that I make usually 100 percent of the time,” safety Adrian Amos said. He was only talking about himself, but he hardly was the only player to uncharacteristically miss a tackle on Sunday.

No Bears player was willing to admit the impact of the hot and humid conditions on Sunday, but this was a defense that looked gassed, especially in the second half. And while the conditions on the field were the same, they weren’t on the sideline — the visiting sideline at Hard Rock Stadium was engulfed in sunlight all game, to the point where Bears staffers had to hold up what appeared to be folding tables over the benches on the sideline to create some makeshift shade.

“It was hot,” defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. “It was hot out there. You gotta play the game anyway. You don’t get a choice. You gotta play. They’re playing, we gotta play too.”

“There’s a lot you can say about it,” outside linebacker Leonard Floyd said. “We haven’t played in a week, the weather is quite different from Chicago — it’s a lot of things you could say but at the end of the day you gotta execute, and we didn’t do a good job of that.”

The Bears’ defense responded well to blowing a 20-point lead in Week 1’s brutal loss to the Green Bay Packers, holding the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to incrementally fewer points each week. This group will have to respond against the diabolical Bill Belichick-Tom Brady New England Patriots offense in Week 7, which presents a far greater challenge than an undermanned group led by Russell Wilson did in Week 2.

There’s no reason to hit the panic button on the Bears’ defense, not when they’ve only had, really, two bad quarters out of 20 all year (though on the other hand, that those both came in the fourth quarter in road games is a little concerning). The Jacksonville Jaguars, widely considered to have the NFL’s best defense before the season, gave up 40 points to a Dallas Cowboys offense that hadn’t shown much promise before Sunday. These things can happen.

And there’s plenty of confidence within the Bears locker room that it won’t happen again.

“This is a building block,” Jackson said. “This is a huge building block for us, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I’m going to keep repeating that because we hold ourselves to a very high standard. We just gotta put this one behind us. It’s going to be tough. Everybody’s seen it. It’s going to be tough for us to do, but we’re looking forward right now. We got a long season ahead of us.”

Eric Ebron interacts with Akiem Hicks' NFC Championship tweet, causing free agency speculation

Eric Ebron interacts with Akiem Hicks' NFC Championship tweet, causing free agency speculation

Just as Bears fans were finally coming to terms with their disappointing 8-8 season, Akiem Hicks decided to pour some salt on the wound and take to Twitter, imagining what it would’ve been like if the Bears had made it to the NFC Championship game.

While we were all imagining how indeed “lit” it would’ve been to see the Bears play in the post-season at Soldier Field, Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron decided to quote tweet Hicks with a thinking face emoji. Curious behavior.

Ebron has played for the Colts since 2018, when he had a stellar first season in Indianapolis, scoring 14 touchdowns. In 2019, Ebron’s season ended after 11 games due to an ankle injury. He scored three touchdowns, reeling in 31 catches for 375 yards. Colts GM Chris Ballad has said that the organization is likely to move on from Ebron in 2020, meaning he would be available in free agency.

Tight end is one of the positions on the Bears long offseason do to list, and Ebron seems he could be a potential fit. Judging by their Twitter interactions, Akiem Hicks and Tarik Cohen seem to think so.

Hicks replied to Ebron telling him he could hear Bears fans calling his name. Cohen echoed this sentiment in his own tweet, albeit more cryptically.

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Ranking the most painful moments for Bears' fans during the 2020 Championship weekend

Ranking the most painful moments for Bears' fans during the 2020 Championship weekend

You may have noticed that none of the four teams that played this weekend were the Chicago Bears. They haven't played since the last week of December, but since this disastrous season won't end for another two weeks, there's been plenty of time for some especially painful parting shots. And weirdly enough, there were multiple moments through the two games on Sunday that reminded Bears' fans about the 8-8 season that absolutely no one is trying to remember. Shall we go through them? OK! 

4. Jimmy Garoppolo Beat The Packers To Go To The Super Bowl With 6 Completions 

Remember when the Bears were going to trade for Jimmy G? Back before they traded up to take Trubisky, rumors were swirling that the Patriots' backup was headed to Chicago. That is what it is -- everyone's connected to everyone at one point or another, and Bears have enough potential QB scenarios to give themselves a stroke over. The real kicker was beating the Packers, and Aaron Rodgers, while attempting eight pass attempts. Remember Nagy's I'm-Not-An-Idiot comment after running the ball 7 times against New Orleans. Imagine that, but it works, and it's in the NFC title game. The Bears couldn't beat the Packers on either occasion this season, and that included 98 pass attempts. That sound you hear is someone (you can choose, really) banging their head against the wall inside of Halas Hall. 

3. Raheem Mostert Rushing For 220 Yards and Four Touchdowns 

Truly an insane night for Mostert. He was briefly on the Bears during the 2016 season, which happened to be Jordan Howard's first and best. Mostert also was on three other teams (NYJ, SF, CLE) that year, and three OTHER teams (PHI, MIA, BAL) the year before, so it's not like the Bears are the only team sitting here with yolk on their face. Still, seeing an NFL journeyman get halfway to the Bears' total rushing touchdown number (8) in one game is the stuff that existential crises are made for. 

2. Robbie Gould's Kicking Well For A Super Bowl Team

Things were all well and good when Eddy Pineiro was hitting game-winners in Denver while Gould got off to one of the worst starts of his career. As the Bears' special teams unit watched from their rented South Beach group house, Gould went 3-3, including a franchise postseason record 54-yarder, in the Niners' 37-20 win. He started the season by being crowned champion of Chicago Football Madness, and now he gets a shot at ending it with another title, even if it's not quite as illustrious as the midwest's premier Bears-only online bracket challenge. 

1. Literally Everything Pat Mahomes Did All Day 

The decision to trade up for Trubisky was bad, but honestly, the endless stream of barely-distinguishable versions of the same snarky tweet may be worse. At some point Bears fans are going to have to come to terms with Pat Mahomes playing for the Chiefs, but it sure as hell won't be this year. In their defense, everything he does makes you physically stop whatever else you're doing and figure out what noise just came out of your mouth. Bears fans are robbing themselves of the best Mahomsian experience by insisting on slamming the Caps Lock button anytime the Chiefs play, but with each new height that Mahomes and the Chiefs reach, it becomes harder and harder to blame them.

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