If it makes you feel any better, Bears safety Tashaun Gipson couldn’t believe it either when he and Eddie Jackson failed to touch Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson down at the 15-yard line Sunday night — allowing Jefferson to get back up and prance into the end zone for a touchdown.
“I can’t tell you, honestly,” Gipson said. “It was one of those plays where in my 10-year career, I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of. If you play that play between me and Eddie, 10 times out of 10, one of us would tag him down — too much football IQ between the two of us to let a play like that happen.
“Obviously, that’s tough — something as simple as touching a guy down. They teach you that in little league. It’s just a play that can’t happen, shouldn’t happen and won’t happen again as long as I’m employed by the National Football League.”
We’ll see about that. Gipson, Jackson, coordinator Sean Desai and the Bears’ defense face an early moment of truth against the Bengals this Sunday after a mystifying performance against the Rams.
In which direction are they headed?
The heat already is on Desai to snap his defense back into form. The Bears hired him to replace Chuck Pagano with continuity in mind. Desai knows this defense. He learned under Vic Fangio. He knows these players.
And yet, right off the bat, the Bears looked like a team that had hired an outside coordinator who had overhauled Fangio’s defense and was introducing new terminology, new techniques and new philosophies. Not only that, but Desai’s own guys — the safeties he had coached for two seasons under Pagano — were the main culprits.
It doesn’t get much more Bears than that — except maybe for the alternating quarterbacks inside the 5/false start/timeout/tipped-pass-that-gets-intercepted thing. But that’s another story for another day.
Gipson, who leads the Bears in candor by a mile, did his best to grasp for answers.
“Week 1 in the NFL, [there’s] always that kind of jitters,” Gipson said. “We could say a lot of things. There was a lot of uncharacteristic football around the league. We’re human. It’s no excuse, but obviously getting on the same page with each other — missing that time during training camp . . . no finger-pointing obviously.
“When you give up plays like that on the back end, it’s a collective situation that we take ownership of. We’ve just got to do better. It wasn’t anything [the Rams] did. It wasn’t [that] their players were better than us and making contested catches. You can live with that.
“The blown coverages, we just didn’t give ourselves a chance, and that’s the most disappointing part about it. Those guys get paid just like we do. But a high school player could have run scot-free open and caught passes like that. I take ownership in the things that happened Sunday and vow to never let that happen again.”
This game against Cincinnati is an early test of Desai’s paternal, professorial approach. To him, improvement is about relationships, not the old-school element of fear.
“It’s an individual approach to each guy because everybody doesn’t respond to the same way of coaching and teaching,” he said. “I’ve learned through my education background [he has a doctorate in educational administration]. So you’ve got to be able to reach these guys where they’re at and make sure they’re responding. And that’s what we’re going to do.
“I think we’ve got good relationships on the defense — from the coaches to the players and the players to the players — and that’s what we’re going to bank on to continue to develop guys.”