Bears’ defense going back to the basics after faltering vs. Packers

A slew of missed tackles paved the way for the Packers to gain 414 total yards and 203 on the ground. “It’s something we have to correct,” coach Matt Eberflus said, “and we’re going to work tirelessly to get that done. But a lot of times it happens early in the year.”

SHARE Bears’ defense going back to the basics after faltering vs. Packers
Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) avoids a tackle by Bears rookie safety Jaquan Brisker (9) en route to a big gain in the Packers’ 27-10 victory over the Bears on Sunday night at Lambeau Field.

Aaron Jones (33) rushed for 132 yards on 15 carries. (8.8 avg.) and one touchdown against the Bears on Sunday.

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Bears coach Matt Eberflus and his defensive staff spent much of the offseason, training camp and preseason instilling the H.I.T.S. principle that focuses on hustle, intensity and aggressiveness. But let the record show that the “T” in H.I.T.S. is for takeaways, not tackling.

So two weeks into the regular season, the Bears had a tackling issue in their 27-10 loss to the Packers on Sunday. Poor tackling helped pave the way for Green Bay to gain 414 yards, including 203 on the ground. According to Pro Football Focus, running back Aaron Jones forced 13 missed tackles by himself. Depending on your definition of a missed tackle, the Bears had 20 or more.

Is that a red flag or just an early-season hiccup for a defense playing at regular-season game speed for only the second time? Eberflus wasn’t going to accept that excuse. But he wasn’t going to freak out about it, either.

“You’re not tolerant [of that] at all,” Eberflus said. “It’s something we have to correct, and we’re going to work tirelessly to get that done. But a lot of times it happens early in the year.”

Eberflus has been here before. In 2019 — his second season as the Colts’ defensive coordinator — poor tackling was the culprit when Indianapolis allowed 435 yards (7.4 per play) in a 30-24 overtime loss to the Chargers in the season opener.

“It was early in the season, and you just gotta get guys to get up on the runner and get their pads on them at the proper level and then have a strong wrap and run your feet. A lot of times, missed tackles happen because you’re lunging and not getting up on the runners. So we’re going to work on that and just get better at it.”

Eberflus seemed to get his point across after that 2019 opener. The Colts responded with a sharp performance against the Titans — allowing 243 total yards (4.3 per play) in a 19-17 victory.

So it figures that the Bears will be on point defensively against the Texans on Sunday. Houston is averaging 266.5 yards (4.2 per play) — 29th in the NFL — and 78.5 rushing yards, ranking 27th, through two games.

“We’ll be better at it,” linebacker Nicholas Morrow said. “We were in the gaps [against the Packers]. We were there. We fitted up. We just didn’t make the play. That’s execution. I don’t think it’s a mental-focus thing. We just didn’t execute well enough.”

Generally, teams that tackle well respond quickly. But in Week 3 of the first season under Eberflus, the Bears have not established that they tackle well.

“You’ve got to get back to your fundamentals,” Morrow said. “Sometimes you just want to go in there and hit a guy, and you may get too high. A guy bounces off of it or spins off of it. They’re paid to break tackles, too. You’ve got to be good in your technique and your fundamentals and constantly work on it.”

Eberflus echoed that sentiment.

“We are tackling too high right now; we’ve got to tackle lower,” he said.

“We’ve just got to do a better job of executing the way we tackle.”

The Bears spent extra time in individual drills working on tackling.

“It’s always emphasized, but it was more overly emphasized [Wednesday],’’ Eberflus said. “I think it could turn around pretty quick. It’s about the fundamentals of it, but, [just] as important, it’s about determination. It’s about the front seven really committing to it, the linebackers and D-line and the secondary . . . committing to not giving up the big play in the running game.”

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