Bears

Rookies already upgrading Bears’ No. 1 defense in win over Colts

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Rookies already upgrading Bears’ No. 1 defense in win over Colts

INDIANAPOLIS – The defensive bar for the Bears’ No. 1 defense was set low by last week’s poor start against the Miami Dolphins, who in two possessions involving starters, gained 132 yards on 21 plays, with a touchdown on Miami’s first possession.

This time the No. 1 defense, faced with a genuine elite quarterback in Andrew Luck, managed to sack him once, limit him to 5-for-9 passing in his three series and while allowing a touchdown, made Luck earn it with a scramble away from pressure.

The various defensive units, with rookies Adrian Amos starting at safety and Eddie Goldman playing the majority of the game at nose tackle, combined for four sacks, three tackles for loss and six quarterback hits. The Bears held the Colts, the NFL’s No. 6 scoring team and No. 3 yardage producers last year, to 11 points and 229 yards. Preseason to be sure, and limited Luck time, but consider it an improvement from the 343 yards allowed to the Dolphins last week.

[MORE: Bears offense makes strides as No. 1 unit scores three times]

“I thought we improved,” said coach John Fox. "Obviously I didn’t like the way we started a week ago. We let them off the hook a couple times with some mistakes. We still had mistakes tonight. But I think we ended up plus-one in turnover ratio and that’s always helpful.”

Defensive line

Rookie Eddie Goldman played extensively at nose tackle after Jeremiah Ratliff started, and Goldman took another step in his NFL development. Goldman provided a stout presence against the run throughout, and got some surprising middle push on Indianapolis quarterbacks. He recovered the Matt Hasselbeck fumble forced by the Sam Acho sack in the third quarter, which was in part caused by Goldman collapsing the pocket back into Hasselbeck’s lap.

Will Sutton broke through for a sack (of Hasselbeck) in the second quarter to force the Colts to settle for a field goal on a possible TD drive. “It just fell right in my lap,” Sutton said, laughing. “I just got off a block, and there he was, so I got him.” Sutton was credited with three solo tackles, one for a loss and a quarterback hit.

Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, both returning from season-ending injuries in 2014, were in uniform for the first time since their injuries, both having been held out of the Miami Dolphins game. “I think they showed good progress and good confidence building in practice,” said Fox. “I think they both probably feel good about getting over that hump.” Houston was credited with one assisted tackle.

[RELATED: Bears push smash-mouth running model to new level in win over Colts]

David Bass notched a sack, four tackles, one for loss, and a quarterback hit.

Linebackers

Pernell McPhee delivered exactly what the Bears thought they were getting when they made the former Baltimore Raven their priority signing of the offseason. McPhee sacked Luck on the Colts’ second play, forced a Luck throwaway with a near-sack on the third, and closed down for a tackle on the first play of Indianapolis’ next series.

Not to be outdone, Jared Allen power-rushed left tackle Anthony Costanzo to force Luck to misfire on another throw in the first quarter.

[MORE: Jeremy Langford flashes potential as Bears rally to beat Colts]

Sam Acho made multiple statement plays in the win over Miami and this game delivered a sack in the third quarter that produced a fumble that Eddie Goldman recovered and the offense converted into a touchdown. “Our guys inside, Eddie and Brandon Dunn, got great push,” Acho said. “Brandon was actually holding onto his feet as I was coming around the edge. Anytime you get pressure up front, it helps the edge rusher, too.”

Secondary

Coverage had its moments, highlighted by cornerback Terrance Mitchell out-fighting Indianapolis wide receiver Donte Moncrief for a second-quarter pass from veteran Hasselbeck. Mitchell has consistently flashed with plays during training camp.

Kyle Fuller embarrassed himself in the second quarter by being thoroughly beaten (without safety help) for a 45-yard gain from Luck to T.Y. Hilton. Fuller then handed the Colts 15 more yards for taunting.

[SHOP: Buy Bears Training Camp gear

The game was the first start for rookie fifth-round safety Adrian Amos, who was credited with three tackles, one a solid open-field solo tackle on speed wideout Phillip Dorsett. “We kind of had him on a pitch count [and] we were kind of taking him out when the first unit came out,” said Fox. Brock Vereen, who lost his starting job to Amos, played physical against the run with a couple of stops in the box. 

Alan Ball allowed Moncrief to run free for a 20-yard completion in the second quarter and was nowhere close to the receiver when Hasselbeck’s pass arrived.

Putting Kyle Long on IR was necessary for the Bears, but that doesn't make it sting any less

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USA Today

Putting Kyle Long on IR was necessary for the Bears, but that doesn't make it sting any less

For the fourth season in a row, Kyle Long’s season ends on injured reserve. 

Matt Nagy opened Monday's daily press conference –– his first since the morning after losing to Oakland –– officially announcing that the right guard’s season is over. 

“Obviously everyone has seen the news [about] Kyle, with putting him on the IR,” he said. “I think it's a tough situation just because of what he's been going through and where he's at … He's always been really good to us and what he's done. We just felt like that was where he's at right now and it's what we wanted to do.” 

Long’s nagging hip injury was clearly affecting his play, and the team felt – given all the run game struggles – that trying to fight through it on a week-by-week basis was no longer a realistic option. And while it’s true that Long came into 2019 camp as healthy as he’d been in years, the wear and tear of three injury-shortened seasons on the 30-year old guard were evident. 

The news was especially tough to swallow for those around Halas Hall given Long’s reputation among teammates and coaches. A first-round pick in 2013 with multiple Pro-Bowls, he was one of the team’s vocal leaders and well-liked throughout all corners of the locker room. 

“Kyle [is] a great dude,” Bilal Nichols said. “My whole rookie year, Kyle helped me out a lot because I lined up against him every day. Guys like him is why I had a pretty good season as a rookie last year.”

“You get a guy like Kyle, who’s poured his heart and soul into this organization and has worked really hard to be dominant in a lot of areas,” Nagy added. “We appreciate that. I’ve only been with him for a year and a half but I appreciate the way that he’s gone about things.”

Now the Bears turn to Rashaad Coward and Ted Larsen – the latter of which returned to practice after missing the Raiders game with a knee injury. Despite his relative inexperience playing on the interior (and frankly, on the offense in general), the team’s eager to see how Coward’s athleticism can help a running game that’s only averaging 3.4 yards per carry. 

He hasn’t been named the starter yet, but was taking first-team reps on Monday afternoon. 

“I just want to play with a dog mentality,” Coward said. “It’s the NFL. Guys come out here and try to kill you every week. So you can’t go out there playing soft. You’re going to get pushed around. And I don’t like that.” 

He also conceded that he was pleasantly surprised by how well he adjusted to having to be an emergency guard in the Bears’ win over Minnesota. Coward hadn’t gotten interior reps during that week of practice, and had to sub in when Larsen hurt his knee. 

“Going into the game, I was like F it,” he said. “It is what it is. It’s either you do it or you don’t.”

“Coaches were like, ‘Hey, this is what you’re supposed to do.’ At the end of the day, just keep it going.” 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Under Center Podcast: A big news day at Halas Hall

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: A big news day at Halas Hall

JJ Stankevitz and Cam Ellis look at the difficult decision and impact of Kyle Long going on IR (1:48), and how Bilal Nichols' return to practice could help alleviate the difficulty of replacing Akiem Hicks for a while (8:25). Plus, Mitch Trubisky returned to practice on Monday (13:10) and the guys look at how Matt Nagy talked about how he spent his off week (17:55).

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

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Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.