Odds are, the Bears have not forgotten how to play defense.
After reaching a new level each week with outside linebacker Khalil Mack in the first four games of the season, the Bears’ defense hit the wall Sunday against the Dolphins. The Bears were victimized by an outstanding game plan by Dolphins coach Adam Gase and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and almost unquestionably wilted in the Miami heat and humidity.
After allowing a respectable 154 yards in an uneven performance in the first half, the Bears were gashed for 387 yards in the second half, with Brock Osweiler throwing touchdown passes of 43 and 75 yards to Albert Wilson.
The Bears won’t always be as good as they were in the first month. But, unless Mack’s sprained right ankle is a significant injury, it’s more likely that the Miami debacle was an aberration.
“A hundred percent [sure of that],” safety Eddie Jackson said. “We knew it was a blip. We talked about how many tackles we missed. Some of that could have changed the momentum of the game if we would have made some of those tackles. Unfortunately, two of them resulted in big-play touchdowns. We come in here, watch film and put it behind us and focus on New England.”
The Bears missed 19 tackles against the Dolphins, according to Pro Football Focus. They had missed 15 total in their first four games. That breakdown in fundamentals and focus and Gase’s game plan are the biggest reasons why 275 of Osweiler’s 380 passing yards came after the catch. It was similar to their only other major malfunction — when Packers wide receivers Davante Adams (51 yards) and Randall Cobb (75-yard touchdown) burned them for big gains in the second-half rally in the season opener, 90 of the 126 yards came after the catch.
The Bears were particularly unbowed by the poor performance, almost emphatic that the loss to the Dolphins didn’t change a thing. They have a lot to prove after this hiccup but are acting like a team that knows it’s good.
“It’s not a blow to our pride at all,” Jackson said. “We’ll go to war with each other any day [against] any team. This same team [the Dolphins], if we meet them down the road, it’s going to be a different outcome.
“We know we made mistakes. We know it’s the NFL. They’re good. They’ve got good players. We’ve got good players. It’s going to be a tough battle. You’re not going to dominate and blow everybody out, but that’s always the goal.
“So we hold ourselves to a very high standard on defense — I mean very high. This is a learning block. Like I told Akiem [Hicks] in overtime, this is going to show us how good we really are on defense. We said the same thing about Green Bay. The same thing about Tampa. We stepped up. And unfortunately it wasn’t enough [against the Dolphins]. We’re going to keep building. But pride? No, that’s not killing our pride at all.”
2 For What It’s Worth Dept.: Even the Patriots have struggled to beat the Dolphins on the road. They are 7-9 at Pro Player/Sun Life/Hard Rock Stadium with Tom Brady at quarterback, losing four of their last five games there.
For comparison, the Patriots are 14-2 at Buffalo and 12-4 at the Jets with Brady at quarterback.
Last year, the Patriots had an eight-game winning streak snapped at Hard Rock Stadium, losing 27-20. In 2014, they lost 33-20 in 89-degree heat and were outscored 23-0 in the second half.
3 Bears coach Matt Nagy affirmed his “ultimate trust” in Cody Parkey to make a 53-yard field goal in overtime, but from a historical standpoint, that seems a little misplaced. There has been only one game-winning field goal of 53 yards or longer in overtime in the last 10 seasons — a 54-yarder by the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein to beat the 49ers in 2012.
In fact, there had only been five attempts from 53 or longer in overtime in the last 10 seasons until Parkey’s miss against the Dolphins, according to research via pro-football-reference.com.
4 Mitch Trubisky may or may not eclipse Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson among the quarterbacks drafted in the top 10 in 2016 and 2017, but he’s getting to where the Bears need him to be.
Trubisky’s passer ratings of 154.6 against the Buccaneers and 122.5 against the Dolphins are the best in back-to-back games (277.1 total) for a Bears quarterback since Ed Brown in 1955 — 135.6 against the Rams, 157.5 against the Lions (293.0 total). And Trubisky also has 100 yards on 11 carries in the last two games — though he still needs to develop the knack for making backbreaking downfield pass plays out of those scrambles.
5 Another sign of growth in the offense: The Bears have drawn four defensive-pass-interference penalties for 71 yards in the last two games. Last year, they had three for 30 yards for the season — and all of them in the last four games with Trubisky at quarterback.
6 History lesson: The Bears are 0-4 against the Dolphins when they come in with a winning streak of three games or longer. The 1985 Bears were 12-0 and had outscored their previous three opponents 84-3 when the Dolphins and Dan Marino famously handed them their only loss that season, 38-24 at the Orange Bowl. The 2006 Bears were 7-0 and had outscored their opponents 221-69 when Nick Saban’s Dolphins stunned them 31-13 at Soldier Field. In 1991, the Bears had a five-game winning streak when the Dolphins overcame a 13-3 fourth-quarter deficit to win 16-13 in overtime.
All three of those Bears teams made the playoffs, with the 1985 and 2006 teams reaching the Super Bowl.
7 After Mike Evans broke the Buccaneers’ franchise record for receiving yards (5,063) Sunday, Johnny Morris’ Bears record of 5,059 receiving yards is now the fewest for an all-time franchise leader. Morris set the record in 1965 and played his last game in 1967. In fact, on a list of career receiving yards with one franchise, Morris’ 5,059 yards rank 182nd overall.
8 This should be a special week for Hicks. He turned down an offer from Bill Belichick to stay with the Patriots in 2016 to sign with the Bears, who were coming off back-to-back seasons of 5-11 and 6-10. And it wasn’t a token offer.
“It was substantial,” Hicks said. “I was on the phone with Bill until the last minute. I think we were off by a little bit as far as the number was concerned. But ultimately [Chicago] was where I felt that I was going to be the happiest and be the most productive, and I think I made the right decision.”
9 Josh McCown Ex-Bear of the Week Award: Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had eight receptions for 74 yards and two touchdowns (13 yards and one yard) in a 34-13 victory against the Giants. Jeffery, who missed the first three games of the season while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, has 18 receptions for 218 yards (12.1 average) and three touchdowns in three games.
10 Bear-ometer: 9-7 — vs. Patriots (L); vs. Jets (W); at Bills (W); vs. Lions (W); vs. Vikings (L); at Lions (L); at Giants (W); vs. Rams (L); vs. Packers (W); at 49ers (W); at Vikings (L).