Bears Defense Needs to Be More Versatile to Compete Against the Elite

Dan Pompei made one of his usual astute observations about yesterday’s game for the Chicago Tribune:

“The Bears also played a heavy dose of man-to-man, especially against nickel personnel. In fact, they played man on about half the snaps.

“They tried D.J. Moore on Wes Welker man-to-man. Result: 17-yard reception. They tried (Tim) Jennings on Welker in man-to-man. Result: 12-yard reception.

“The Patriots’ multifaceted offense took the Bears out of what they do best. They are not built to play man-to-man any more than a rear-wheel-drive sports car is built for a Chicago winter.”

The Patriots are very good at dictating match ups when going against teams who play a zone defense.  A good part of that is because they can dictate personnel with their tight ends, then line up Welker or another player in a position to get a favorable match up.

Looking at it in retrospect, the only way that the Bears were going to effectively defend against the New England offense was going to be by playing man-to-man.

As Pompei points out, the Bears just aren’t built to do that.  Their defensive backs were signed and/or drafted to play zone and, when they’ve got their heads in the game and conditions are right, they’re pretty good at it.  But if they want to compete with the elite teams, their defensive backs are going to have to be more versatile.  Otherwise losses like yesterdays are always going to be a possibility.

Bears Need to Take Close Look at Their Mental Preparation

Mike Mulligan brought up a point for the Chicago Sun-Times that I know is probably running through many people’s minds this morning.

“But the thinking was the Bears were beyond this sort of game, yet another in a series of historic losses. It has been going that way for the Bears the last couple of years.

“They don’t just lose; they set some kind of record for futility en route to disaster. It happened last year against Cincinnati and Arizona and earlier this year when they gave up an NFL- record nine sacks in the first half of a road loss against the Giants.”

This is something that the Bears seem to struggle with.  All teams have bad games but when they do it, everything seems to collapse at once.  I can’t believe that there weren’t signs that this was coming last week.  Perhaps the players were too tight or too loose in practice.  Perhaps they didn’t appear to be focused.  Whatever the signs were, the Bears coaches obviously missed them or, if they didn’t, they didn’t do anything about it.

Players as individuals have to get themselves ready to play but getting the team as a group prepared to play is Lovie Smith‘s job.  He’s got to recognize when a large percentage of the team doesn’t appear to be ready to play.  Right now he should be questioning his evaluation when performances like yesterday’s come along with no apparent warning.  Good teams with good coaches just don’t lay eggs like yesterday’s.

Smith has a lot of former head coaches on his staff.  Perhaps a talk with them is long overdue.  At minimum, its time for some self evaluation.

The Bears Were at a Disadvantage on the Slick Soldier Field Surface Against the Patriots

There were all kinds of reasons for yesterdays 36-7 debacle against the New England Patriots.  But I thought Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris came up with one of the main problems that perhaps people aren’t considering in the locker room after the game (via Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times):

“Nobody was making excuses afterward as player after player agreed with linebacker Lance Briggs’ assessment that this had been a ‘butt-whipping,’ although defensive tackle Tommie Harris did say the Patriots’ defensive scheme may have given them a built-in advantage in the wintry conditions.

“‘If you’re a fast defense, you play better on turf and other fast surfaces,’ Harris said. ‘Their defense is a 3-4, so their guys stand up, so traction isn’t a problem.'”

Last week I pointed out that one of the keys to the game was going to be the Bears defense playing particularly fast against the Patriots.  Then the snow came.

With Lovie Smith as the effective defensive coordinator and with Mike Martz as the offensive coordinator, the Bears have effectively brought the St. Louis Rams blue print of the late nineties to Chicago.  That plan is built based upon speed.  But the Rams play in a dome.  The Bears don’t and, though the problem hasn’t reared its head much previously, it was obvious that the footing hurt them more than the Patriots yesterday.

Game Comments: Bears Vs. Patriots, December 12, 2010


  1. Bears came out playing passive in the cover-2 in the first quarter. They had nickel personnel on the field on first down.
  2. The Patriots obviously anticipated what the Bears were going to do and they responded by running the ball and they did it very well.
  3. That wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been for the fact thay the Bears weren’t stopping them from passing either.  If you can’t stop the pass with nickel personnel on the field its going to be a long day.  It was.
  4. Eventually the Bears started putting in the standard front seven more often and bringing an eigtth guy into the box in running situations.  They haven’t had to do that for most of the year but they did here.  This did help stop the run but Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passed at will.
  5. Color man Phil Simms almost immediately pointed out the significant fact that the Patriots offensive line was expected to block the Bears pass rush without help.  The fact that they did was a huge key to their victory.  The pass rush wasn’t getting to Brady quick enough under the circumstances.
  6. The Patriots run the play action really well.  Of course it starts by running successfully which they did until the Bears gave in and started to scheme to stop it, giving the pass.
  7. The Patriots executed the passing game to perfection finding the holes in the cover-2 defense all day, especially by throwing over the middle.  The gaps were huge particularly when the linebackers got sucked toward the line of scrimmage by the play action fake.
  8. The Bears just weren’t playing fast enough or tight enough to stop a balanced Patriot offense that was executing well.  The footing had a devastating effect.
  9. The last play of the first half was a disaster.  Charles Tillman let Branch release to the outside.  He got no help over the top.  Absolute disaster.
  10. Terrible game for Tillman.
  11. Give the Bear defense credit.  They continued to give good effort in the second half and really laid some good hits.


  1. The Bears came out running and it looked like the right thing to do.  They were getting yardage and the Patriots seemed perfectly happy to give it to them by staying in their standard 3-4.  But the Bears didn’t execute well enough, consistently enough to do what they had to on the ground.  This was true particularly when they tried to run up the middle.
  2. On a related note, the Bears offensive line was particularly bad today.  The Patriots defensive linemen got penetration and generated negative plays all day.
  3. I don’t know what it was with quarterbacks not sliding today but after watching Aaron Rogers get a concussion I grimaced when Bears quarterback Jay Cutler took off with the ball.  He’s got to start sliding.
  4. The protection was really bad for Cutler and the Patriots got good pressure up the middle.  Once it got to be about 24-0, the Patriots just started rushing all out, knowing the the Bears had to throw the ball.  In fairness to the line they did improve in the second half (as usual).  But it was way too little, way too late.
  5. Cutler did throw the ball pretty well today.  He’s got the arm to compete in this kind of weather if he has time to throw.  I know he was intercepted twice but he was simply trying to make something happen under trying circumstances.
  6. For a team that dominated the game the way they did, the Patriots didn’t tackle very well.


  1. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms did a very good job.  It’s tough when the game is so uncompetitive.  I really appreciated the occasional wide shot that CBS gave the television viewers.  It allowed us to get a glimpse of the formation before the camera zoomed in more closely.
  2. The special teams were both good and bad.  Good with the returns as Danieal Manning had some good ones.  Bad with the kick coverage as the Patriots had some good returns as well.  The ball was dead which made kicking difficult.
  3. The Bears deferred on the coin toss giving the ball to the Patriots first.  I was mildly surprised because one of the keys is to keep Brady and that offense off the field.  No harm done.
  4. The turnovers were, of course, killers.  The Patriots converted them into points and things really snowballed in the first half because of it.  The Bears, on the other hand, missed repeated opportunities to get turnovers of their own – opportunities which they usually take advantage of.  Not a good game.
  5. The Patriots didn’t drop many balls in the first half.  They let down and dropped quite a number of them in the second half.  The Bears had maybe a few more than usual but relatively speaking it wasn’t a serious problem.
  6. The Bears, again, had far too many penalties.  As usual, the offensive line was the main culprit.
  7. The Bears seemed to have a lot more trouble with the footing than the Patriots did.  It wasn’t really  the slipping around that was so obvious but they looked tentative on their feet and it limited their mobility.  The Patriots looked like they were much quicker and more sure footed.
  8. Thank goodness the Packers lost to the Lions today.
  9. The Tweet of the game comes from Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune: “In his team speech last night, @ZachZaidman reports Lovie Smith was so emotional, some players teared up. Anyone cry at halftime?”
  10. The Bears didn’t play well and they didn’t handle the footing very well, either.  But those things can be corrected.  Their biggest problem today was that this was an awful, awful match up for them.  The Patriots look and play like they were almost designed to compete against cover two defenses like the Bears.  The loss was disappointing and I’m as frustrated as anyone.  But, unlike some fans, I’m also not going to be calling this a team full of frauds, either.  Circumstances and their offensive line just conspired against them today.  Here’s hoping they learn from it and are better able to handle them later.  There’s still hope that over the next month that offensive line will solidify and come together to make a playoff run.  But they’d better hurry.