The Bears have taken a lot of heat — and deservedly so — for their 32nd-ranked run defense that has allowed an average of 205 yards in their last six games. But the pass defense has been shaky as well.
With a subpar pass rush and safeties seemingly backed up to the opponents’ goal line, the Bears are preventing the big bomb, but are getting torched by big plays. The Bears have not allowed a pass play longer than 45 yards this season. But they’ve allowed 81 pass plays of 15 or more yards — sixth most in the NFL. Of those 81 plays, 48 of them came with 10 yards or more to go for a first down.
That deficiency was most glaring the past two weeks when they were burned for 16 plays of 15 or more yards by Kellen Clemens (6) of the Rams and Matt Cassel (9) and Christian Ponder (1) of the Vikings. The receivers were just as pedestrian: John Carlson, Jared Cook, Stedman Bailey, Jarius Wright and Jerome Simpson.
In many cases, the receivers are wide open — like when Cook found a huge soft spot between linebacker Jon Bostic and safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte for an easy 29-yard gain on first-and-20 after the Bears had cut the Rams’ lead to 27-21 in the fourth quarter.
It happened again against the Vikings. With the Bears leading 20-17, the Vikings converted a fourth-and-11 pass to a well-covered Simpson for 20 yards for a first down. But after that Cassel hit three open receivers — Simpson for 20 yards, tight end John Carlson for 17 and Wright for 21 yards —en route to a field goal that tied the game.
‘‘No, they’re not supposed to be [that open],’’ Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. ‘‘And we had some breakdowns on that fourth-and-11 play [too]. Obviously they made a good throw and a good catch in that situation. But no, the defense is built not to give up big plays, so we’ve got to do a better job of execution. [The problem] is execution and we’ve got to do a better job coaching and we’ve got to do a better job playing.’’