Bears film study: Defense needs major corrections before facing Saints

Aaron Rodgers laid out a clear blueprint for Drew Brees and the Saints to follow, so the Bears must fix what they got wrong against the Packers.

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Duke Shelley (20) and the Bears caught a break on this one, but new cornerbacks Shelley and Kindle Vildor have had a hard time stepping into their new roles.

Duke Shelley (20) and the Bears caught a break on this one, but new cornerbacks Shelley and Kindle Vildor have had a hard time stepping into their new roles.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was more than the Bears could handle, and it gets no easier with fellow future Hall of Famer Drew Brees next in the wild-card game Sunday against the Saints.

Until the Bears find a franchise quarterback, they’re always going to be an underdog against teams that have one.

Rodgers laid out a clear blueprint for Brees, so the Bears need to make major corrections. Their most jarring lapse came midway through the second quarter, when they left inside linebacker Danny Trevathan to cover speedy Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Trevathan never had a chance, and Valdes-Scantling burned him on a 72-yard touchdown reception.

That was not a misplay by Trevathan. It was an error by defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. Trevathan showed blitz up the middle, then had to scramble to cover a receiver down the field, which isn’t his strength. Valdes-Scantling beat him within eight yards and caught the ball at the Bears’ 45-yard line with nothing but open space ahead.

It was the longest completion the Bears allowed this season and another example of how much their defense has slipped.

In their first 10 games, the Bears gave up 20.9 points; since then, they’ve allowed 26.8. Their biggest issue continues to be the lack of a pass rush, and in two games against Rodgers, they had one sack and six quarterback hits.

With that much time, Rodgers completed 40 of 53 passes for 451 yards and eight touchdowns with no interceptions for a 140.0 passer rating. It would’ve been even worse had Valdes-Scantling not dropped a would-be 53-yard touchdown pass early in the third quarter, which Rodgers unleashed with almost no threat of being touched.

Brees was similarly comfortable when he faced the Bears in November. He dropped back 42 times, and the Bears had one sack and two hurries.

This time, Brees will benefit from facing a depleted secondary. Rodgers went after fifth-round pick Kindle Vildor (starting in place of stellar rookie Jaylon Johnson) and Duke Shelley (playing nickel in place of 10-year veteran Buster Skrine) all day. Neither played a snap when the Bears and Saints met in Week 8.

At the end of the first quarter Sunday, the Packers went for it on fourth-and-three at the Bears’ 23-yard line. Davante Adams beat Shelley so badly that Shelley had no choice but to commit pass interference. Adams had him six yards into his route and probably would’ve scored a touchdown if Shelley hadn’t pulled on his arm.

Other notes from this week’s film review:

  • The Bears became the second team this season to convert five fourth downs in a game, making good on five of six. And they got all five decisively. Their closest call was a quarterback sneak by Mitch Trubisky early in the fourth quarter, but he picked up the fourth-and-one by about a half-yard.
  • The Bears’ biggest play was Trubisky’s 53-yard strike to Darnell Mooney midway through the third quarter, and they did something highly unusual to spring it. Allen Robinson, by far their most targeted and productive receiver, went in motion before the snap and chipped so Trubisky could roll left without pressure. Mooney ran a perfect route down the middle, shaking cornerback Kevin King and taking safety Darnell Savage one-on-one.
  • The Bears’ failures in the red zone ultimately did them in. It’s impossible to beat Rodgers with field goals, and the Bears put up only one touchdown in five trips to the red zone. They cashed in on their opening drive, then got nothing the rest of the game. They kicked field goals on drives that reached the Packers’ 12-, 9- and 2-yard line.

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