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Time to be concerned after Bears’ defense ‘laid an egg’

That’s not the start the Bears’ aging defensive starters or first-time defensive coordinator Sean Desai needed. 

The Bears defense struggled to contain Bills quarterback Mitch Trubisky on Saturday.
The Bears defense struggled to contain Bills quarterback Mitch Trubisky on Saturday.
Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

Safety Tashaun Gipson knew what was coming Monday: The Bears were watching film of their defensive debacle Saturday against the Bills.

‘‘[It] is going to be one of those meetings you dread going into,’’ Gipson said. ‘‘Because you have that real talk.’’

The film will talk, all right. In fact, it will scream. The Bears allowed touchdowns on the Bills’ first four drives and points on six of their seven first-half possessions, allowed backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky to go 20-for-28 for 221 yards and a touchdown and missed enough tackles to give coaches a week’s worth of practice pointers.

‘‘Anytime you come out there and you let a team just impose their will, that’s essentially what happened,’’ Gipson said. ‘‘That’s always tough. That’s not the standard we want to put ourselves through. That’s not the standard. It’s definitely tough, obviously. We put it on tape. Now we have to go back and correct.’’

It wasn’t the start the Bears’ aging defensive starters or first-time defensive coordinator Sean Desai needed.

‘‘Obviously, man, this is the preseason,’’ Gipson said. ‘‘That’s what this is for. There’s no need to panic.’’

Panic? No. Concern? Absolutely. The only question is how much.

Desai, a 38-year-old who never has called plays at any level, won’t get the benefit of the doubt until his defense plays well in a game setting. His players won’t, either, after finishing among the bottom third of the NFL in takeaways and in the bottom half in sacks in each of the last two seasons.

The last time the Bears played preseason games, they were the reigning No. 1 defense in the NFL. They gave up almost 23 points per game in the preseason under defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano in 2019.

Desai’s defenders are allowing 27 points per game this preseason, the third-most of any NFL team through two exhibition games. Entering Monday, only six teams had allowed more than the Bears’ 336.5 yards per game.

If they do that during the regular season, they’ll muck up the team’s plans on both sides of the ball. There’s no purpose to playing steady-as-he-goes quarterback Andy Dalton if the Bears are getting boat-raced. There’s no rationale in sitting a game-changer, such as Justin Fields, if your struggling defense gives you a reason to change the equation. And if the Bears are playing so poorly that their decision-makers start fearing for their jobs, all bets are off.

Desai hasn’t played with a full lineup yet. Gipson and fellow safety Eddie Jackson each played 44% of the time Saturday. Cornerbacks Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley and defensive lineman Bilal Nichols were the only other projected starters to play at least 30%. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and outside linebacker Khalil Mack played 11% and 17%, respectively.

All of the above, however, were on the field when Trubisky did some of his first-quarter carving. Starting linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan didn’t play at all.

‘‘We had core, key guys out there, and we still laid an egg,’’ Gipson said. ‘‘So that’s unacceptable, man.’’

Trubisky carved up the Bears’ vanilla schemes, but it wasn’t just him. The Bills scored their first touchdown on a flip left to running back Devin Singletary, who ran through arm-tackle attempts by outside linebacker Robert Quinn and defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr., then beat Jackson, who took a too-flat angle, down the left sideline for a 14-yard touchdown.

‘‘I think probably the biggest thing was just the tackling,’’ coach Matt Nagy said.

A lot of teams say that during the preseason after having gone eight months without hitting in a game. But if the Bears’ defensive struggles prove to be more serious, that might torpedo the season. There will be reason for concern until there’s not.

‘‘That was just a tough day for us,’’ Gipson said. ‘‘We’ve got time to correct it. Three weeks away.’’