Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio isn’t the kind of guy who bites the head off a chicken to motivate his players. And he’s not the kind who upends the postgame spread or publicly scolds his players when things go bad. He’s the opposite of effusive.
So it wasn’t a big surprise that Fangio was rather matter-of-fact when quizzed about the shoddy tackling and generally sloppy performance by his defense in the 31-28 overtime loss Sunday to the Dolphins. The 541 yards the Bears allowed were the second-most against a Fangio defense in his 19 seasons as an NFL coordinator — and that includes stints with the expansion Panthers and Texans.
For the record, the Bears allowed 546 yards in an overtime loss to the Lions at Ford Field in 2015 — Fangio’s first season with the Bears — when All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson burned undrafted free-agent safety Harold Jones-Quartey for a 57-yard pass play in overtime. But when you compare the roster of those Bears to these Bears, the debacle against the Dolphins is much more egregious.
“Obviously it wasn’t good enough,” Fangio said when asked about the tackling against the Dolphins. “It wasn’t who we’ve been here in the past, even throughout this stay [with the Bears]. It was disappointing and something that’s gotta be corrected.”
The prevailing theory at Halas Hall — actually inside and outside Halas Hall — is that the Dolphins game was an aberration. The Dolphins out-schemed the Bears, and outside linebacker Khalil Mack’s ankle injury was a factor. But the Bears clearly wore down in the 89-degree heat at Hard Rock Stadium — they allowed 386 yards and 24 points after halftime, including 113 yards on 12 plays in overtime.
Just a blip?
“I hope that’s what it is,” Fangio said. “Some guys and teams have bad days in a lot of ways, and that was one of ours. But time will tell.”
Indeed it will. And Fangio’s teams have a history of snapping back after a clunker. Remember when the 49ers and Aldon Smith obliterated the Bears 32-7 on ‘‘Monday Night Football’’ in 2012? The 49ers were coming off a dreadful game against the 3-5 Rams — a 24-24 tie as 13½-point favorites at Candlestick Park in which they allowed 458 yards. The 49ers ended up second in points allowed and third in yards allowed and made the Super Bowl that season.
But the aberration theory is complicated by a much higher degree of difficulty this week against Tom Brady and the Patriots at Soldier Field.
The Patriots can make you look as bad as the Bears did against the Dolphins even when you do tackle well. Brady, in fact, threw for 443 yards against Fangio and the 49ers in 2012 — the most passing yards by a quarterback against a Fangio defense.
Fangio went back to work as he always does and figures this team will respond without having to crack the whip. It’s not like they don’t know how to tackle.
“It’s hard to address it in practice, physically,” Fangio said. “We have one day in pads, and you go through tackling drills and get back to the fundamentals, emphasize it, show them where the mistakes were and hopefully get it corrected by Sunday.”
Tackling is about form and fundamentals, but at this level with a unit as talented as the Bears’ defense, it’s mostly about focus. The Patriots are sure to get the Bears’ attention. And in his own way, Fangio surely got the point across.
“He was a little frustrated about it,” second-year safety Eddie Jackson said. “That’s something that coach Vic’s been preaching since I walked in the door — tackling. We watched the film. But we put that behind us. Now we’re on to New England.”