Bears need to start taking the ball away again
With a popgun passing attack and a running game bordering on nonexistent, the Bears need takeaways — and maybe a defensive touchdown — to beat the Vikings on Monday night.
Almost two years ago to the day, Bears safety Eddie Jackson conducted the orchestra.
Wearing the same orange jersey and hosting the same Vikings team the Bears will face Monday, he intercepted a pass by Kirk Cousins in the fourth quarter and returned it down the left sideline for a 27-yard touchdown to seal a victory in 2018.
In the end zone, Jackson’s teammates gathered around him in a half-circle and pretended to play instruments. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks blew into a make-believe flute. Outside linebacker Khalil Mack joined in only after beginning to sing ‘‘Oh,Happy Day.’’ He thought the celebration was a gospel-choir bit.
‘‘It’s always memorable when you make plays like that,’’ Jackson said this past week.
The Bears need more like it. They had nine takeaways in their first seven games but have had none in their last two.
With a pop-gun passing attack and a running game bordering on nonexistent, the Bears need takeaways — and maybe a defensive touchdown — to beat the Vikings.
‘‘When the offense is in situations like that, when you have the type of competitors that we have on this side of the ball, our mindset is, ‘Hey, if they can’t do it, then that’s fine,’ ’’ safety Tashaun Gipson said Saturday. ‘‘We have to go out there and create some opportunities for the team and for ourselves and get some juice going. . . .
‘‘Obviously, the only thing you can do is continue to have faith [that the offense is] going to continue to get things going and rolling. But at the end of the day, I don’t think there’s too much added pressure to say — since they’re not doing, quote-unquote, enough — we need to do more.’’
There’s a fine line between trying to force a turnover and trying too hard.
On the first drive last Sunday against the Titans, cornerback Kyle Fuller jumped an out route, got both hands on the ball and, with nothing but green grass in front of him, dropped it.
Later in the first quarter, the Titans threw a slant to receiver A.J. Brown. Jackson tried to strip the ball from his hands at the Titans’ 46 and whiffed. Brown ran for 26 more yards.
‘‘You don’t ever want to press,’’ Jackson said. ‘‘You just want to sit out there and you want to play your game. Sometimes they just come to you, you know what I mean? And sometimes you have to go out there and make it happen. . . .
‘‘At this point in the season, as a defensive unit, it’s a lot of stuff that we have to do. We have to come out and play. We have to create those turnovers.’’
The Bears will have their chances. The Vikings are tied for fourth in the NFL with 10 interceptions, and their 12 turnovers are tied for sixth in the league.
‘‘Those first couple of games, they looked out of sync,’’ Gipson said. ‘‘That’s the Kirk Cousins I hope I see Monday.’’
The Bears think they’re close to being elite, pointing to two Jackson touchdowns that came back on penalties this season.
‘‘We just have to play within ourselves and make the play when the play comes and not think too much about it,’’ inside linebacker Roquan Smith said. ‘‘Because when you go out trying to force things, that’s when worse things can happen.’’
The Bears talk about takeaways every day. Maybe too much.
On Monday, they’ll need them.
‘‘You can swing the bat so hard you’re in a hitting slump,’’ defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. ‘‘You can keep swinging, swinging so hard and trying so hard that it just gets worse.
‘‘I think guys have just got to play and be in the right spots, and when the opportunity arises, you’ve got to take advantage of them.
‘‘We’ve missed some, you know? We had opportunities, a couple last week. But we’ve gotta make good on those.’’