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Bears’ defense eager to make amends

The Bears allowed 426 yards against the Lions — the second-most in a season opener in franchise history. “I expect a huge leap from Week 1 to Week 2,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) eludes Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan in the Bears’ 27-23 victory Sunday. Stafford had five carries for 23 yards as the Lions rushed for 138 yards and passed for 288 against the Bears’ defense.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) eludes Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan in the Bears’ 27-23 victory Sunday. Stafford had five carries for 23 yards as the Lions rushed for 138 yards and passed for 288 against the Bears’ defense.
Nic Antaya/Getty Images

If not for Lions running back D’Andre Swift’s drop in the end zone Sunday, the Bears’ vaunted defense would have spent this week under even more scrutiny than quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the hot-and-cold offense.

Hoping to regain its bite from 2018, when it led the NFL in six major categories, including takeaways with 36, the Bears’ defense instead allowed 426 yards on 72 plays (5.9 average) and 23 points. That’s the most yards allowed by the Bears in a season opener since 1965 (485 against the 49ers) and the second-most in franchise history. It’s the most yards allowed by the Bears in any game since 2018, when they allowed 541 (429 in regulation) in an overtime loss to the Dolphins.

Defenses were surmised to be ahead of offenses after a pandemic-affected offseason. But after one game, the Bears are left hoping the opposite is true — that they were merely shaking off the rust after an offseason with little tackling and no game-speed snaps.

“Some of it’s that,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “It’d be easy to make those excuses, but our guys won’t do it. Coaches won’t do it. I won’t do it. We played [72] snaps — that’s way too many. We have to be better on third down [the Lions were 6-for-16]. Gave up a third-and-10, gave up a third-and-17 — that’s just bad ball.

“I have to do a better job of putting them in position to get out of those situations. That’s on me. We just have to play better. And we will play better. I have to coach better.”

The Bears were without nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who opted out of the season. Outside linebacker Robert Quinn (ankle) did not play and was limited in practice again Thursday. His status for Sunday’s game against the Giants is unknown.

Rookie cornerback Jaylon Johnson was a bright spot with two pass break-ups, including the final play of the game in the end zone. But all in all, the defense lacked sharpness, most notably linebacker Danny Trevathan, who had seven tackles but didn’t have his usual mobility and struggled in pass coverage — including the drop by Swift that would have given the Lions the lead with six seconds to play.

“Danny had some really good plays. I know there’s some plays he’d like back,” inside linebacker coach Mark DeLeone said. “I think Danny knows the mistakes he had. He’s a competitor. He’s going to be able to correct those. I know he’s excited about that to get back to work this week.”

Pagano avoided assessing Trevathan’s performance. The veteran’s outstanding history certainly affords him some leeway.

“At times we all played really good, and at times we didn’t do our job well,” Pagano said. “There were times I didn’t do my job well. It’s Game 1. It’s Week 1. . . . We’ll be much better. I expect a huge leap from Week 1 to Week 2.”