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Bears’ defense: ‘We never quit,’ even if Tony Dungy said we did

As the Packers celebrated Jamaal Williams’ 13-yard touchdown run and a 41-10 lead late in the third quarter Sunday night, NBC analyst Tony Dungy broke down the replay with a rare critical comment.

Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano greets safety Eddie Jackson on the sideline.
Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano greets safety Eddie Jackson on the sideline.
Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

As the Packers celebrated running back Jamaal Williams’ 13-yard touchdown and a 41-10 lead over the Bears late in the third quarter Sunday night, NBC analyst Tony Dungy broke down the replay with a rare critical comment.

“This is just poor tackling,” said Dungy, a Pro Football Hall of Fame coach who was filling in on the broadcast. “This is the Bears’ defense basically giving up here.”

Coordinator Chuck Pagano — like Dungy, a former Colts head coach — hadn’t heard about the burn before he was told of it Thursday.

“Our guys never give up,” Pagano said. “I’ll fight anybody tooth and nail on that.

“And I love Tony. I have great respect for Tony. But I don’t pay attention to any of that stuff. Our guys don’t ever quit. They would never give up.”

Safety Eddie Jackson also disagreed with Dungy’s assertion.

“We’re still fighting,” he said. “It may look like [giving up], if a guy’s frustrated or whatever, because of the game. But we never quit or give up.”

It’s now up to the defense to prove it — with actions, not words — on Sunday against the Lions.

Told of Dungy’s comments minutes after the Packers game, Bears coach Matt Nagy said he didn’t question his players’ effort. But the subject of effort matters. It’s usually the first sign a coach has lost the attention of his team. And chairman George McCaskey is examining the Bears’ culture — and the fates of Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace — over the final five weeks of the season.

Given the state of the offense, the Bears won’t win again unless the defense improves from what Pagano considered a one-off poor performance against two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He said he took full responsibility for a series of mistakes, from his unit’s performance against the run to the red zone to third down. He conceded he didn’t mix up his play calls enough and that Rodgers “knows exactly what you’re in.”

“We ran into a buzzsaw,” he said. “Best quarterback in the league, I think. Usually, someone makes a play and you do something to stop the bleeding. Just couldn’t get it. We didn’t have enough bandages and whatever to get the bleeding stopped.”

The Packers “100% handed it to us,” safety Tashaun Gipson said — but it wasn’t for lack of effort.

“When you talk about quitting, that’s an effort [and] a pride thing,” he said. “That’s a mental thing. And I don’t think that no guy in here quit. Did guys not play their best game? Of course. I wouldn’t deny that. But for us to say ‘quitting,’ I think that’s a tough term to say about this defense. We’ve got a bunch of dogs out there who will fight.”

The Bears’ retelling of Sunday night’s defensive performance — admitting they were drubbed despite playing hard against their rival — is only marginally more palatable than quitting.

The Packers “big-brothered us,” Gipson said. “It was just like my big brother used to do me when I was 12, 11 — before I got bigger than him.”

The loss still seemed to bother Jackson. He said there’s one way to forget about it.

“For us to go out there and we feel like we got embarrassed on national TV, especially a prime-time game, we just want to keep working,” Jackson said. “Right now, we’ve got that as fuel to our fire. We just can’t wait until Sunday, get this taste out of our mouth. That’s all we’ve been focused on, is Detroit — how we’ve got to bounce back and what we need to do and correct the little things.”