The Chicago Bears are not ready to sound the alarm on defense, but that does not mean the group has lived up to expectations.
For a unit head coach Matt Nagy recently dubbed the NFL’s best defense, the Bears have pushed the bend, not break motto to the brink.
“Well, for last week, no, they didn’t [play the way I expected them to play],” Nagy said after Chicago’s 17-13 win over the Giants. “But for us to keep them where they were with 13 total points in this game and getting those turnovers...I thought you got to be pretty happy with that. I’m happy with them. We can always be better.
“Our guys always expect a lot. For Robert Quinn to come in his very first play and have a strip sack...it does take a little bit of time as you start kind of creating who you are. But the only thing that matters right now is the 2-0 and then we just got to make sure that any area we can we just keep getting better at it.”
In a scene reminiscent to Week 1 at Ford Field, the New York Giants – minus their best player, running back Saquon Barkley, and wide receiver Sterling Shepard – still had a chance to win on the game’s final play. To the Bears’ credit, their defense finally stiffened and the Giants, like the Lions, came up short as time expired, but the mere fact New York had the Bears’ defense on the ropes after trailing all game should be of great concern.
To be fair, the Giants' offense – on the last drive -- inherited good field position after Cairo Santos’ missed a 50-yard field goal attempt. Earlier in the game, New York had shown they could punish the Bears' D with a painstaking 95-yard, 11-play drive for a touchdown.
!“We got to wait and see the film, because there’s a lot of things that probably went wrong on that 95-yard drive that we can fix,” Bears safety Deon Bush said. It’s hard to really point out a certain thing. We definitely got to watch the film and see how all of us as a whole can get better. Next week is another game and we’ve got to come out and play.”
There are positives to point out. Bush recorded his first career interception on an errant pass by Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, and veteran pass rusher Quinn recorded the aforementioned strip-sack on his first snap after being inactive in Week 1. Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson had a pick-six wiped away because of pass interference call, and Khalil Mack had a better performance with three tackles and a sack.
A championship defense, however, plays better. The lapses are sometimes overlooked when a team is undefeated, but how about when the schedule toughens up? The Falcons – Chicago’s Week 3 opponent – had an epic collapse versus the Cowboys, but Atlanta still scored 39 points. Teams such as the Colts, Bucs, Rams and Saints seem far superior to the Lions and Giants, both 0-2.
“2-0 is never a bad situation, I don’t care how you get it,” Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks said. “2-0 is delicious. I’ll eat that every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
“What I’ll say is this, there are bumps in the road during the course of the game and you’ve got to be able to pick yourself back up and keep fighting. And then, each game is a smaller season. When you look at the whole season, there’s going to be times in November and December where you say, ‘Man, I gotta really improve on that.’ And what do you do? You go and work on it and try to come out the next week and play better. So to answer your question more directly: I’m happy about 2-0.”