Eddie Goldman, Bears’ D have full head of steam but long way to go

Eddie Goldman isn’t big on statistics. Most nose tackles aren’t.

“Once I do my job, plays will come,” Goldman said. “I don’t worry about stats.”

In general, his impact on the Bears’ defense is difficult to quantify. His job often is to penetrate, occupy blockers and give others the opportunity to make big plays. But not even the stat sheet could ignore Goldman’s impact last week in the Bears’ win over the Ravens. The 6-4, 320-pound third-year pro from Florida State had six tackles, including a tackle-for-loss, in the 27-24 overtime victory.

The six tackles tied Goldman’s career high in 27 NFL games. The other time he had six was in last year’s season opener against the Texans. That’s when he was fresh and healthy. He suffered an ankle injury the next week and was never the same.

Bears coach John Fox (left) celebrates as linebacker Pernell McPhee (92) and Danny Trevathan (59) leave the field following Trevathan's fumble recovery against the Ravens last week. (Gail Burton/AP)

That Goldman was just as productive statistically in Week  6 this year says a lot about his growth, his health and the potential of the Bears’ defense. A healthy Goldman is picking up steam, giving them an upgrade at a key position.

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And Goldman isn’t the only one. Cornerback Kyle Fuller has seen similar growth after missing the entire 2016 season. In fact, despite losing linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Willie Young and safety Quintin Demps, the Bears have upgrades at seven or eight positions on defense. Defensive end Akiem Hicks is building off a breakout season. With Hicks and Goldman playing at a high level, defensive end Mitch Unrein has been more productive, too.

Linebacker Pernell McPhee, who was getting ready for his first game off the physically unable to perform list at this point last season, is going strong with three sacks in his last four games. It’s worth noting that McPhee’s snap count went down — from 45 against the Vikings to 37 last week — and the Bears played their best defensive game of the season, holding the Ravens to 4.2 yards per play and three field goals.

“We played good from start to finish,” coordinator Vic Fangio said when asked what impressed him the most about the defense against the Ravens. “The last [five] minutes of the game, we tried to do a lot of things to lose the game. But we just kept playing good. It wasn’t where we had a good series [and then one or two bad ones]. I like the way we played the entire game.”

Even losing Freeman, Young and Demps, the Bears are in a better situation defensively than they’ve been in during Fangio’s three seasons — making plays and playing well with room for growth. Now comes the tricky part: staying healthy and maintaining it. After losing nearly one starter a week to injury or suspension, the Bears will have the same starters available in back-to-back games for the first time this season. In fact, if Nick Kwiatkoski returns from a chest injury after missing the previous four games, the defense on paper will be stronger this week than last. Statistically, it has improved this season: from 11th to sixth in yards; 12th to eighth in yards per play; and 20th to eighth in yards per pass attempt. It has the potential to be a top-10 defense.

“You’ve got to be consistent,” Fangio said. “Every week is a new entity. Last year after 13 games we were ranked seventh in [total defense], and the dam broke the last weeks [with a drop to 15th].”

Fangio knows better than to take a victory lap after Week 6. But with a helping hand from the football gods, his defense has a chance to take that giant leap.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com