When the Chicago Bears front office, including team President Ted Phillips and general manager Phil Emery went in search of a new head coach after firing Lovie Smith, their search focus on someone who could advance Jay Cutler to the next step and take the offense to places they failed to go under the guidance of Smith and his ever revolving door of coordinators.
What they got was a guy known for his work with quarterbacks, getting the most out of them when they otherwise may have failed to take the next step of their careers. What they may have failed to take into account, is that Smith may have had that exact same influence on the defense that was built around the famous Tampa-2 scheme that was run so well in this city under Smith’s tenure as head coach.
There were certainly some changes on the defense for the Bears this season. The defensive line lost some depth and the linebacker group dramatically changed, including the well documented departure of future Hall of Fame middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. However, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker vowed that much of what the Bears had done on defense would remain the same as it was under Smith. Terminology, maybe. Results? Hardly.
Through five games, the Bears are averaging 28 points allowed. Their highest total of 40, which was in week four against the Detroit Lions, could be largely placed on Cutler, who turned the ball over four times. The defense was hardly good in that game though, allowing 387 total yards, which included 159 yards rushing.
Even the lowest point total the Bears have allowed is 21, which came against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first game of the regular season.
Some of the biggest struggles for the Bears have come on third down, where they rank 21st in the NFL in getting off the field and forcing fourth down. The Saints were able to convert 38% of their third downs on Sunday, which is close to the Bears average of just under 40%.
The defensive line has had trouble getting any pressure on their opponents quarterbacks. In fact, the Bears have only six sacks on the entire season, good for 30th in the league. What the lack of defensive pressure has done is create time for opposing quarterbacks to find open receivers. It has put a strain on the linebackers and secondary, as it is nearly impossible to hold coverage for the length of time they have been required to do so this season.
It will be up to Tucker to come up with play designs to more efficiently stop opposing offenses. For initial viewing, it seemed that the Bears had some success running the base Cover-2. It limited what the Saints were able to do, especially down field. For Tucker and the Bears, it may be the solution to a problem that may have gone somewhat unforeseen coming into the season. The base defense so many fans wanted to do away with, may be the Bears best chance at success. Imagine that.
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