Can Vic Fangio fix the holes that are emerging in the Bears’ defense?
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A quick stop-and-go move exposed the Bears’ recent vulnerability on defense.
Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones beat cornerback Marcus Cooper badly for a 28-yard touchdown. It came four plays after Cooper provided wide receiver TJ Jones with too much space on a 17-yard completion on third-and-15 from the Lions’ 9.
What can defensive coordinator Vic Fangio do?
“Just keep going with him,” Fangio said. “Get him his snaps when we can and have good weeks in practice. And [you] just have to fight through it.”
Fangio’s defense is fighting through plenty right now.
Cooper spelled Kyle Fuller for that series because Fuller is having his own problems. Like the rest of the Bears’ defense, Fuller’s previously strong and reliable play has dipped recently.
In the last two weeks, Fangio’s defense has shown signs of breaking down, whether it’s the mounting injuries, another blooper by Cooper or Fuller’s inability to tackle or make an interception.
“Our guys have a good attitude,” Fangio said. “And we’re going to go out and play.”
But how well? Carson Wentz and the Eagles’ offense — which ranks first in scoring, second in rushing and third in total yards — have humbled plenty of opponents.
Coach John Fox is under scrutiny because of the Bears’ 3-7 record. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is under pressure to develop rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky. And special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers has a new kicker in Cairo Santos to work with in Week 12.
Compared to Fox, Loggains and Rodgers, Fangio seemingly has gotten a free pass. For Fangio, the last six weeks should be viewed as an opportunity to prove why he’s still one of the NFL’s best defensive minds, not to mention head-coaching material.
Fangio’s defense didn’t deliver the win it should have against Packers backup quarterback Brett Hundley at Soldier Field. Instead, Hundley completed 18 of 25 passes for 212 yards, a touchdown and a 110.7 passer rating — his best mark this season — in Green Bay’s 23-16 victory.
As quarterback Matthew Stafford was passing for 299 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears in the Lions’ 27-24 victory, the Ravens’ defense played like a top-10 defense should against Hundley in Green Bay. He was intercepted three times and sacked six times. The Ravens held him to a 43.6 passer rating.
The disparity in Hundley’s performance made the Bears’ most disappointing loss of the season look even worse.
To be fair, the defense delivered the wins against the Ravens and Panthers. It also has put Trubisky in position to win or tie the game in all four of his losses as a starter.
But Fangio knows cracks have emerged in the wall he has built. Three of the five longest touchdowns the defense has allowed have come in the last two weeks. As a result, Fangio’s defense has fallen out of the top 10.
Asked for his thoughts about the defense’s play — particularly the pass rush — Fangio had a one-word answer: inconsistent.
Losing inside linebacker Danny Trevathan to a calf injury hasn’t helped. And losing outside linebacker Leonard Floyd to damaged knee ligaments complicates matters.
But if injuries aren’t a good excuse for Loggains’ issues this season or last, then they shouldn’t be for Fangio, either. He needs to find a way to turn around his defense’s fortunes just as Loggains managed to get four consecutive 300-yard passing games out of Brian Hoyer last season.
It starts with finding answers for the Eagles.
Then again, no team has.
“They do a lot of things from a schematic standpoint,” Fangio said. “They’ll spread you out. They run the zone-read [option]. They’ve got good-schemed runs, too. They play all their [running] backs. They’re the highest-scoring team in the league for a reason.”
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.