Once again, for what feels like the eight hundredth time in a franchise history defined largely by bad quarterbacks, the Bears asked their defense to be nearly perfect to win.
“Obviously we didn't do enough because we didn't the job done,” inside linebacker Roquan Smith said.
No. No no no no no.
The Bears’ 19-11 loss to the Indianapolis Colts is not on the Bears’ defense.
Come on. It’s 2020. It’s been long past time for the Bears’ offense to actually hold up its end of the bargain in a league that rewards teams that can score, not teams that can prevent scoring.
“19 points on defense, you should be able to win games,” coach Matt Nagy said, correctly.
But this is *the* problem with the 2020 Bears. They’re built to win in a bygone era of football, an era in which defenses really did win championships. In 1985, there were only 27 instances of a team scoring 30 or more points in the first four weeks of a season. With Week 4 not even finished yet, there’ve already been 52 in 2020.
Of the last 20 Super Bowl participants, only two didn’t have a top-10 offense (as ranked by Football Outsiders’ DVOA). But eleven of those 20 teams didn’t have a top 10 defense.
And in the last four years, the average DVOA ranking of a Super Bowl participant was 4th for offense and 16th for defense.
The Bears’ most realistic scenario seemed to have those numbers backwards – maybe the fourth-best defense and 16th-best offense.
Just look at the ticky-tack pass interference flags thrown around Soldier Field on Sunday, or the absurd roughing the passer penalty charged to Akiem Hicks in Week 3 – which he, incredibly, wound up getting fined for. The NFL is more interested in penalizing and fining players for obeying the laws of physics than it is encouraging good defense.
And that’s fine. There wasn’t much exciting about a 19-11 slog in which both defenses played well – and both quarterbacks played poorly.
“Obviously that that was a tough game to be a part of,” Nagy said.
But only three teams are using more of their cap space on defense than the Bears. Ryan Pace’s big free agent move was to sign edge rusher Robert Quinn, betting his presence opposite Khalil Mack and Hicks would make it nearly impossible to throw the ball against this defense. Danny Trevathan was guaranteed $3 million more than Jimmy Graham, Ted Ginn Jr., Demetrius Harris and Germain Ifedi combined.
And what do the Bears have to show for it? A pretty good defense, actually. One that does need to make more game-wrecking plays but also has a penchant for coming up with stops when it counts. The Colts had to settle for four field goals and only converted eight of 19 third down tries (42 percent).
But a pretty good – or even great – defense only gets you so far in today’s NFL. Maybe to the playoffs, if you’re lucky. You have to pair it with not just an average offense, but a good offense, to truly be a contender.
(Or you can pair a great offense with a bad defense. It works too.)
And if you have a bad offense to go with that great defense?
You get games like we all saw Sunday. The Bears’ way out of this is not with its defense playing better. It’s with its offense finally getting with the times – and maybe doing what it did in the fourth quarters in Detroit and Atlanta over the course of a full game.
But until that happens, I guess a perfect-or-bust mindset is how the Bears’ defense is going to have to approach things. Again.
“At the end of the day, if they don't score, they don't win,” Smith said. “So when you live with that mindset, at the end of the day, they got too many points on us. That's not the goal so we just got to get better and obviously we didn't play good enough to get the W.”