How the Raiders’ 97-yard march drove the Bears through the bye week
“With a performance like that our defense is eager to try to get our swagger back,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said.
It’s the Bears offense’s job Sunday to provide hope for the rest of the season, be it with a decent performance from quarterback Mitch Trubisky, a sign of life from their run game or — gasp! — scoring more than 21 points for the only second time this year.
It’s the defense’s job, though, to make sure the Bears beat the Saints.
They had a chance last time out, and failed. The Bears had the Raiders right where they wanted them — at their own 3-yard line, down four, with 7:49 to play. Pitching a second-half shutout after giving up 17 points before halftime, all the Bears needed was one more stop.
Momentum said they’d get one, and history agreed. Since 2000, only three times had any trailing NFL team started a drive inside its own 3-yard line with less than eight minutes to play and ended it with a go-ahead touchdown that won the game. It hadn’t happened since 2012, when the Seahawks went 97 yards to beat — wait for it — the Bears.
And then it happened again.
The Raiders marched and scored, but only after the Bears thought they had a stop. The Raiders lined up to punt on fourth-and-6, but Kevin Pierre-Louis’ running into the kicker penalty made it fourth-and-1. They faked the punt and got the first down, and then the offense muscled 69 yards more for a touchdown.
“I’m speaking as a defensive unit — I’m sure [the fake] probably deflated us,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “That’s uncharacteristic of us to allow that to happen.”
Coordinator Chuck Pagano said the team never worries about more defensive snaps — it’s just more TV time for the unit, anyway, he joked. Outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino said the staff took the players’ temperatures after the fake and thought they were fine.
“There may have been some, ‘Oh my gosh; is this really happening?’” Monachino said. “’Do we have to be cautious, or can we stay aggressive?’”
They were neither.
“We just didn’t execute and we didn’t make the plays we wanted to make,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said. “It’s a nasty taste in our mouth. We know how we pride ourselves on defense.”
When the Bears take the field Sunday against the Saints, they will have had two full weeks to think about the Raiders’ scoring drive.
They’ll have something to prove.
They should be up to the task, given that the Saints will be without quarterback Drew Brees, running back Alvin Kamara and tight end Jared Cook. The Bears have their own injury with which to contend — defensive lineman Akiem Hicks was put on injured reserve Tuesday with a left elbow injury.
“He’s that guy in the defensive room — he’s our leader, he’s our alpha in there,” Pagano said. “He’s a great, great player. And he’s a great leader … But it’s an opportunity for those other guys to step up and fill that void.”
They did it in their last home game, against the Vikings. In two Soldier Field contests this season, they’ve allowed only 16 points. In 10 regular-season home games under coach Matt Nagy, the Bears have allowed 15.6 points per game.
During that 10-game stretch, the visiting team has averaged 20 rushes for 62 yards; gone 23-for-38 for 235 yards, one touchdown and one interception; and allowed almost four sacks per game.
During the bye, Amukamara said, the Bears noticed the national narrative praising other the Chiefs’ and 49ers’ defenses.
“It’s kinda hurting our pride — ‘No, we want people to be talking about us like that,’” he said. “We have to go back out and do it and prove to everyone why we’re one of the best defenses.”
And to forget about the Raiders’ 97-yard march.
“With a performance like that,” Amukamara said, “our defense is eager to try to get our swagger back.”