Bears’ shoddy defense reaching a breaking point
“We can’t keep shooting ourselves in the foot,” safety Eddie Jackson said after the defense committed three penalties and allowed two touchdowns in the fourth quarter of a 31-30 loss to the Lions. “We gotta do our jobs. We gotta get this fixed. We gotta get it fixed fast.”
Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams seemed to sense a chance to put the hammer down with a 14-point lead early in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Lions.
On first-and-10 at the Lions’ 45, Williams sent cornerback Kyler Gordon on a blitz, and it nearly worked. But Lions quarterback Jared Goff escaped the sack and ran toward the right sideline. Gordon turned around and did what he was coached to do: hustle back to try to make something happen.
Gordon caught up with Goff just as Goff was being forced out of bounds by linebacker Nick Morrow and swiped at the ball at the Bears’ 45-yard line. But he got too much of Goff and was penalized for unnecessary roughness. Instead of a loss, it turned into a 25-yard gain to the Bears’ 30.
‘‘I chased him down and punched the ball from underneath with one hand, and the ref is gonna call what they’re gonna call,’’ Gordon said. ‘‘I’m just out there hustling. It’s really on the ref; it’s their judgment call. I’m gonna feel some [other] way about it, but that’s not up to me. I’m just gonna do my job. Nothing we can do about it. That’s their job, I guess.’’
It was that kind of day for the Bears’ defense in a 31-30 loss. After allowing 148 yards and 10 points on the Lions’ first two drives, the defense allowed only 22 yards on 13 plays on the Lions’ first three drives of the second half as the Bears built a 24-10 lead.
But it didn’t take much to revert to form, and the defense soon fell into an all-too-familiar rut: The harder they tried to make a play, the worse they got.
Three plays after Gordon’s penalty, linebacker Jack Sanborn intercepted a pass by Goff at the Bears’ 8-yard line, but it was nullified by a penalty on cornerback Jaylon Johnson for illegal hands to the face.
The defense couldn’t stand prosperity and wilted under pressure. After quarterback Justin Fields’ 67-yard touchdown run gave the Bears a 30-24 lead with 9:11 left, punter Trenton Gill pinned the Lions at the 9-yard line with 5:23 left. But the Lions drove 91 yards on eight plays for the winning touchdown.
The frustration has reached a breaking point for the defense. Johnson, who had two consecutive illegal-hands-to-the-face penalties in the fourth quarter, declined to talk after the game. Safety Eddie Jackson, who has emerged as the team’s most vocal leader, couldn’t hold back his irritation at the same issues cropping up while Fields and the offense score enough points to win.
‘‘We can’t keep shooting ourselves in the foot,’’ Jackson said. ‘‘I’m tired of getting up here [and] saying the same thing every week. It’s just become repetitive. I felt like we had a great week of practice, that’s the crazy part about it. I feel like we were flying around on defense. [The] offense is doing what they’ve been doing.
‘‘We’ve just got to execute better. We’ve gotta finish. We had a 14-point lead. We’ve gotta go out there and do our job. It works both ways. We’ve gotta trust in our players. That’s about it.’’
Jackson said he didn’t see Johnson’s penalty that nullified Sanborn’s interception, ‘‘but I heard it was a bad call.’’
That’s something the Bears have to overcome, however.
‘‘It sucks, but we have no control over that,’’ Jackson said. ‘‘Like I said, I’m tired of sounding like a broken record every week. We’ve gotta do our job. We’ve gotta be better on defense. . . . We’ve gotta get this fixed. We’ve gotta get it fixed fast.’’