It’s never a good thing when “How many missed coverages did you count?” is one of the questions at the news conference after your first game as an NFL defensive coordinator. But Sean Desai knows this is what he signed up for.
Desai was on the spot already after the Bears’ defense — his defense — allowed 34 points, 386 yards and 7.7 yards per play in a 34-14 loss to the Rams on Sunday night at SoFi Stadium.
There was an egregious miscommunication on Matthew Stafford’s 56-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cooper Kupp, with no defender within 10 yards of Kupp when he caught the ball at the 12-yard line.
“It was just a coverage assignment — some miscommunication on the field, and that starts with me,” Desai said. “I’ve got to make sure everybody’s prepared to the level we need them to be prepared.”
There was another miscommunication on Stafford’s 67-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Van Jefferson, who was two yards past safety Tashaun Gipson when he caught the ball at the 21-yard line.
“We had a coverage pickup that we needed to rectify there, also,” Desai said.
That error was compounded by an inexcusable mental lapse, when Gipson and safety Eddie Jackson failed to touch Jefferson after he fell inside the 15-yard line — allowing him to get up and run into the end zone for the touchdown. It was the third play call of Desai’s career. What was he thinking when that happened?
“Probably similar to what you guys were thinking,” Desai said. “What happened? Did they touch him? Or not? And, obviously, they didn’t touch him. At that point, it’s like everybody else — what are you gonna do? You can’t take that play back. We’ve got to get ready to play the next play and fix those errors.”
The question, of course, is how? And how quickly? The Bears face the Bengals and second-year quarterback Joe Burrow on Sunday at Soldier Field.
Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft, was a rookie-of-the-year candidate when he suffered a season-ending torn ACL in Week 11 against Washington. He picked up where he left off in the Bengals’ 27-24 overtime victory Sunday against the Vikings at home, throwing for 261 yards, 9.7 yards per attempt and two touchdowns with no interceptions and a 128.8 passer rating. He quickly has developed a connection with former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase, the rookie wide receiver who had five receptions for 105 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown, against Minnesota.
If the Bears have miscommunications again, Burrow appears well-equipped to take advantage.
Desai said he counted 12 missed tackles on eight plays against the Rams — another area of emphasis this week. But “the pass pickups were probably the No. 1 thing,” he said. “Realistically, it’s three or four plays that went big. And those three or four plays against an offense like that — against a quarterback like that — is where you get exposed.”
It will be interesting to see how his players respond after a humbling opening effort for a coach they were determined to play well for.
“Our standard is the standard, and everybody’s held accountable to [that] standard regardless of your years [in the league] and regardless of even me,” Desai said. “So the accountability was addressed in a very direct, matter-of-fact way. And we move on.
“We can’t dwell on things in this league. That’s where things snowball. You address it, and you improve it and ask for a clarification and make sure that the way you’re teaching it is proper — because sometimes the way you’re teaching isn’t the right way. And that’s on me.”