Defense pours gasoline on Bears’ fire
Determined to atone for a bad game against the Packers, the defense instead imploded again, allowing 460 yards, including a seven-play, 96-yard touchdown drive that ignited the Lions’ rally.
After being called out by coach Matt Nagy in the wake of a poor performance against the Packers — and after being accused of quitting by NBC analyst Tony Dungy — the Bears’ defense and vowed to make it about pride and show what it’s made Sunday.
It wasn’t much.
Instead of responding with a performance befitting a unit that thinks it’s one of the best in the NFL, the Bears’ defense imploded again in a 34-30 loss to the Lions at Soldier Field.
The Bears allowed 460 yards to a Lions offense that entered the game tied for 20th in the NFL in total yards. It was the most yards the Bears had allowed in regulation since 2016. They also allowed 34 points to a team that was shut out by the Panthers two weeks ago.
‘‘Yeah, we’re a proud defense,’’ nose tackle Bilal Nichols said. ‘‘We know we need to be better — point blank, period. We can’t have weeks where we’re not playing the ball that we need to be playing. It’s on us. We’ve gotta be better as a defense.’’
With the Lions trailing 30-20 and pinned back at their 4-yard line with 4:33 left, the Bears’ defense had a chance to atone for another poor performance and put the hammer down. Instead, it allowed the Lions to drive 96 yards on seven plays for a touchdown in just 2:18.
Even mild resistance at least would have bled the clock, but the defense wasn’t up to it. After an incompletion, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford completed passes of 14 yards to T.J. Hockenson, 22 and 17 yards to Danny Amendola, five yards to Marvin Jones Jr., 13 yards to Hockenson and 25 yards to Jones for a touchdown.
‘‘That’s probably the one that we’ll look back and say, ‘Man, being able to get them to take more time off the clock and hold them to at least a field goal,’ ’’ Nagy said.
A defense that entered the game ranked second in the NFL in preventing third-down conversions allowed the Lions to go 6-for-11 in third-down situations, including a 15-yard pass from Stafford to Jones on third-and-10 and a 25-yarder from Stafford to Jones on third-and-12.
‘‘I thought that was big there with some of those,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘We got them into where we wanted them with third down, but we weren’t able to get off the field.’’
There were no mitigating factors this time, either. Defensive end Akiem Hicks was back after missing the game against the Packers, and Stafford isn’t Aaron Rodgers and doesn’t have the Packers’ offense at his controls.
And so much for the idea that the Bears’ defense suffers from so rarely playing with a lead. The Lions ran 65 of their 66 offensive plays while trailing. But with an opportunity to unleash the full fury of a defense loaded with expensive playmakers, the Bears could muster only two sacks and a fourth-quarter interception by Nichols.
The good was far outweighed by the bad. Buster Skrine made a fabulous play to close fast and stop Jamal Agnew for no gain on fourth-and-one on the Lions’ first possession, but he later committed an illegal-use-of-hands penalty that nullified a sack by Khalil Mack.
Nichols’ interception with the Bears leading 30-20 with 9:22 left seemed like a finishing touch, but it wasn’t.
‘‘You always [have] got to play to the end of the fourth quarter,’’ Nichols said. ‘‘It’s the NFL. They have great players, too. It’s never over until the clock hits zero. That was my thought process: ‘It’s not over. We’ve gotta finish it.’ ’’