First-and-10: Bears must improve their pass rush

Would a lesser quarterback have fared worse? It was a question pondered by members of the Bears’ defense after Aaron Rodgers dissected them in typical fashion in the Packers’ 31-23 victory Sunday at Soldier Field.

“You can say that,” outside linebacker Pernell McPhee said. “I still feel like we could’ve come away with the ‘W,’ but we just have to get off the field on third down.”

That’s where the pass rush is supposed to come in.

There are some positives to draw from, but the Bears’ pass rush isn’t one of them. It was nonexistent. It’s one aspect that has to improve considerably, at individual and team levels, against the Arizona Cardinals and beyond. The Bears didn’t get one hit on Rodgers.

“Obviously, we didn’t hit him like we wanted to,” McPhee said. “We really didn’t make it home as pass rushers.”

The Packers’ personnel groupings forced the Bears into their nickel package for nearly the whole game. Rodgers’ smarts and quick release and the overall tempo of the Packers’ offense also hurt the pass rush.

But none of this should have surprised

new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio or his players. The Bears had one-on-one battles and lost them. When they blitzed, they didn’t fluster Rodgers.

The blitzes seemed to lack the right timing to surprise Rodgers, a factor that should improve with more practice and games as Fangio installs more elements and the chemistry improves. Bad footing at Soldier Field and Rodgers’ mobility also were factors as the Bears lost contain.

“There’s plenty of room for improvement,” coach John Fox said Monday at Halas Hall. “As good as we were on offense on third down, we didn’t do as well defensively.”

It has to change against quarterback Carson Palmer, who isn’t as mobile as Rodgers but can still pick defenses apart when given the time. Palmer completed 19 of 32 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns in a Week 1 victory against the New Orleans Saints. He wasn’t sacked.

At the very least, the Bears sound like they have the right mindset.

“I guess to the outside world, it’s a plus to play Green Bay relatively close, right?’’ outside linebacker Jared Allen said. “For us, at least for me, it’s not good enough, bottom line.”

2. No one was talking about earning a moral victory, but there was a sense of confidence afterward.

Some of it probably stems from hanging tight with the Packers, but some of it is rooted in their new coaches and philosophies.

This Forte quote is worth repeating: “The mentality of the offense, which I was proud of, is nobody had that stupid look on their face like before when something would happen — kind of saying that the game is lost already when there’s time left. I was glad we didn’t have that and kept fighting.”

3. If we’re referencing last season, it’s a good time to highlight former coach Marc Trestman’s bad debut as the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive coordinator.

The Denver Broncos, Fox’s former team, defeated the visiting Ravens 19-13. Quarterback Joe Flacco completed 18 of 32 passes for 117 yards, threw two interceptions and had a 38.2 passer rating.

The Ravens also weren’t very balanced. No. 1 back Justin Forsett only had 14 carries.

“A pretty poor showing,” Flacco said.

4. It’s a good year to have Forte on your fantasy team. His 141 rushing yards in Week 1 were more than he had in any game the two years under Trestman. It also was Forte’s highest total in a season opener since running for 123 yards on 23 carries as a rookie in 2008.

5. Snap limit? The numbers didn’t show it in the end for receiver Alshon Jeffery, who was returning from a calf injury. He was noticeably absent early when the Bears used three-tight-end sets with Eddie Royal as the lone receiver. But Jeffery was on for 60 of the Bears’ 77 offensive plays (78 percent).

6. It was the first time linebacker Shea McClellin handled the defensive calls for a full game against a live opponent.

McPhee, a defensive captain with four years of experience in a 3-4 defense, was impressed with McClellin’s efforts.

“Awesome,” McPhee said. “He did a great job of lining us up all day. Any checks he had to make, he made them. The crowd was loud, and he repeated everything. He played good. Him and ‘Cheese’ [linebacker Christian Jones] played good.”

7. Press-box statisticians credited McClellin with a team-high eight tackles. Pro Football Focus’ reviews also gave him the best individual grade on defense.

8. Rookie safety Adrian Amos was strong in run support, making five solo tackles, according to press-box statisticians. He also received one of the few positive grades from Pro Football Focus.

Amos’ first tackle came against bruising running back Eddie Lacy on a five-yard gain in the first quarter. It was something Amos was looking forward to.

“Every game, you want to get that first play under you,” Amos said. “You feel better.”

9. Outside linebacker Lamarr Houston, who has a base salary of $5.95 million, only played four snaps. Fox said it was partially because the Packers offense’s fast pace made it difficult to substitute. But Willie Young played 22 snaps.

10. Finally, a numbing stat from the NFL to consider: Rodgers is the only quarterback in league history to have 13 touchdown passes and zero interceptions over a three-game span against one opponent.

That would be the Bears.

Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns


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