After the Bears surrendered 163 all-purpose yards to Alvin Kamara in Week 8, some fans aren’t giving them a chance to reel in Derrick Henry on Sunday. Henry leads the league in rushing yards, already at 775 through only seven games. Meanwhile the Bears run defense, which used to be elite, has given up a middling 4.3 yards/carry so far this season.
But Pro Football Talk’s Chris Simms told NBC Sports Chicago, he believes the numbers may be a little misleading in this case.
“The Bears defense I think is better at stopping the run than it statistically says,” Simms said. “The one thing I’ll say about Chuck Pagano is he puts a lot of pressure on his front seven a lot of the time. He doesn’t give them extra secondary help and things like that to stop the run. Because he goes, ‘Man, my front seven is talented, so I’m going to put them in a tough spot.’
“Yeah, maybe they give up a play every now and then, but because of that, you guys don’t give up... a play-action pass for 30 yards and another play-action pass for 20 yards’ Because he keeps the safeties deep and protects against that.”
Here, the numbers support Simms’ holistic look at the Bears defense. Their yards allowed per pass attempt ranks tied for second in the league at 6.6. They’ve only allowed two passing plays over 40 yards all season. By limiting those explosive plays, the Bears defense does what defenses are supposed to do: keep the other team from scoring. Through eight weeks, the Bears defense has held opponents to 20.8 points per game, good for the eighth-best mark in the NFL.
But the Titans will present the Bears defense with a unique challenge since Henry is so good, and the passing attack blends well with the constant threat of Henry breaking off a big run.
“This is a pretty big challenge, because Ryan Tannehill and this pass offense is pretty damned good too,” Simms said. “They’re aggressive with pushing the ball downfield. It’s a good play-action pass attack. Henry’s just as talented as they come in football, but I think the Bears will do a good job of slowing him down.”
Still, Simms likes the Bears’ chances of limiting the damage Henry can do.
“I will be shocked if he goes off. Maybe he gets to 100 (yards), but I wouldn’t bet on it. If it gets to over 100, 110, 115 for Derrick Henry, I go ‘Oh, the Bears have lost.’ If it gets to 75-90, somewhere around there, I probably go, ‘Oooh, the Bears are probably in a really close football game and have a chance to win the game.’”