With its six touchdowns and league-high 30 takeaways, the Bears’ defense still can claim to be the best in the NFL. But its pride took a hit last week when it withered in the second half of an overtime loss to the Giants at the Meadowlands.
“It wasn’t our best game,” inside linebacker Danny Trevathan admitted.
Even given an unexpected chance to atone in overtime after Chase Daniel and the offense rallied for 10 points in the last 1:43 of regulation, the Bears’ defense faltered — allowing a 29-yard run by Giants rookie Saquon Barkley on the first play of overtime to set up the field goal that made the difference.
“We’re disappointed,” Trevathan said. “But we know what type of team we are and what type of team we’re going to be.”
Trevathan and the Bears have a timely opportunity to prove just that this week against a Rams offense that no defense has stopped this season. With the best balance in the NFL — fourth in rushing and fourth in passing — the Rams are averaging 32.3 points per game. They’ve scored 23 or more in every game and 30 or more in eight of 12 games.
It’s a challenge that would be daunting to most teams but is embraced by a Bears defense that suddenly has something to prove.
“It’s an opportunity for us to bounce back,” Trevathan said, “and get back to where we need to be and the way we see ourselves — as the best team in the league.”
“We’d like to make that statement every week,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said when asked about the opportunity against the Rams’ second-ranked offense. “The assignment this week is tougher than usual, but that can happen any week in the league. We accept the challenge and know it will be hard and know they will make some plays, and hopefully we’ll make a few of ours and come out on top.”
It’s the biggest intrigue — nationally at least — of a marquee matchup that was flexed to national TV Sunday night at Soldier Field. The football adages that defense wins championships and a good defense will stop a good offense have been in peril in recent seasons. (The NFL’s top five teams in scoring this season are a combined 47-12-1, .792; the top five in scoring defense are 37-23, .617.)
The Chiefs (34.7 offensive points per game), Saints (34.3) and Rams (32.3) are dominating the NFL with their offenses. They not only are prolific, they’re consistently prolific. The Chiefs, Saints and Rams have scored 21 or more points in 35 of their 36 games.
The resurgent Bears (8-4) might be a year early to challenge teams such as the Rams, Chiefs and Saints — they still have to make the playoffs, in fact. But if Mitch Trubisky returns and resumes the upward trend of the offense that had the Bears ninth in offensive points scored before he was injured, they could have the right balance to make things interesting against the presumed high seeds — a threatening defense that can contain the high-powered offenses and an offense that can keep Drew Brees and Jared Goff off the field.
The game against the Rams will be a test run, especially for the defense. With their formidable balance, the Rams force you to be at the top of your game mentally as well as physically. Coach Sean McVay is proficient at zigging when you zag and keeping even a good defense on its heels. The Vikings’ defense was hardly at its best in Week 4, but the Rams’ 38-point performance was still pretty impressive.
“They’re really good,” Fangio said. “They’ve got really good players, a good scheme, a really good play-caller [in McVay]. It’s a tough assignment, no doubt about it. But we’ve got to show up.”