The Bears’ special teams have been frustratingly porous through seven games, allowing three touchdowns, successful tricks plays and significant yards.
But coach John Fox has a message for critics of coordinator Jeff Rodgers: Get off his back.
“He’s definitely a very capable coach,” Fox said Monday. “I don’t have any concerns in that area.”
Rodgers first worked with Fox as a special-teams assistant in 2010 with the Panthers. He then became Fox’s special-teams coordinator for four seasons with the Broncos.
This year, the Bears’ special teams have deservedly come under fire. Their failures have played significant roles in all five of their losses.
Vikings returner Marcus Sherels’ 65-yard punt return for a touchdown, where he went untouched down the sideline, is the latest example. Just look:
· In Week 1, the Packers had a 54-yard punt return and a 46-yard kickoff return.
· In Week 2, the Cardinals’ David Johnson returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown.
· In Week 3, the Seahawks were buoyed by Tyler Lockett’s 105-yard kickoff return for a score and Richard Sherman’s 64-yard punt return on a trick play.
· In Week 6, the Lions’ Isa Abdul-Quddus ran for a 30-yard gain on a fake punt in the fourth quarter.
Players’ poor execution and effort are to blame, and special teams always feature considerable turnover personnel-wise. But the Bears did add linebackers Lamin Barrow and LaRoy Reyonds and safety Chris Prosinski to help shore up their special teams.
“We’ve had a little bit different set of circumstances, so I don’t like to compare things, whether it’s players or plays,” Fox said. “But we’ve had our share of rough spots in not even half of a season.”
As for Sherels’ return, Fox said the breakdowns started with a bad punt by Pat O’Donnell that quickly turned into contain issues.
“It just wasn’t executed very well,” Fox said.
Fox was asked if he’d like to see a better effort from O’Donnell when he became the last line of defense against Sherels.
“A the end of the day, you’re not designing coverages that your punter is a major factor,” Fox said.
Gettin’ Ziggy with it
New defensive end Ziggy Hood was active against the Vikings, but didn’t play. Hood, who was signed to replace Jeremiah Ratliff, still is recovering from a torn plantar fascia. Fox indicated that Hood was essentially insurance behind their top four linemen.
“We had a little bit of an unusual situation with [nose tackle] Bruce [Gaston] being sick two days,” Fox said. “He’s not exactly been with us a whole length of time, and same with Ziggy. Getting them in football shape, getting them ready to play, those are factors.”
Rookie nickel back Bryce Callahan is undergoing concussion protocol. He played 24 snaps on defense and seven on special teams on Sunday.
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns