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Reliable Bears’ defense showing signs of weakness in last two losses

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilseludes Bears lineman Israel Idonije as he runs with ball during fourth quarter drive leading touchdown. The

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson eludes Bears lineman Israel Idonije as he runs with the ball during the fourth quarter drive leading to a touchdown. The Chicago Bears fell to the Seattle Seahawks 23-17 in overtime Sunday December 2, 2012 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 5, 2013 6:25AM



A day later, and the Bears still had no answers for Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

‘‘I wish I knew,’’ coach Lovie Smith said Monday when asked about the rookie who guided the Seahawks to a 23-17 overtime victory at Soldier Field. ‘‘If I knew that, believe me, we would have done everything we possibly could to contain him.’’

The Bears are fortunate they won’t be seeing quarterbacks who can run like Wilson in the last four weeks of the regular season. But the loss to the Seahawks raises similar concerns about the Bears as when they were trampled in San Francisco on Nov. 19.

In both games, defensive failures stand out, whether it’s coaches not quickly identifying things or players not reacting appropriately to adjustments. On top of that, the Seahawks’ and 49ers’ abilities to control the line of scrimmage against the Bears’ vaunted defensive front is disconcerting.

It should be a well-known fact that if the playoffs started today, the Bears have beaten just one playoff team — the Indianapolis Colts in rookie quarterback Andrew Luck’s first NFL game. All four of the Bears’ losses have come against playoff teams: the Green Bay Packers, the Houston Texans, the 49ers and the Seahawks.

Smith said no one played well on defense against the Seahawks, noting that the pass rush wasn’t nearly as effective as it was a week earlier against the Minnesota Vikings.

‘‘The pass rush wasn’t there, we didn’t contain the quarterback the way we needed to, we didn’t get off the field on third downs [or] take the ball away as much as we needed to,’’ Smith said.

Much like the Bears were bewildered by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s arm, they had few explanations for the Seahawks’ zone-read option. Wilson ran the zone-read — or some variation of it — just eight times in regulation. But as he said afterward, the Seahawks realized it was ‘‘wide open, pretty much’’ and used it extensively in overtime.

How much? The Seahawks used the zone-read option on six of their 12 overtime plays. If you count the play-action play they ran from the zone-read option for the game-winning touchdown, it accounted for more than half of their snaps.

Wilson said the Seahawks initially had called for the zone-read option on the game-winning pass — believing it would continue to work — but decided to change it.

‘‘They were looking for that [zone-read option] play, I think,” Wilson said.

It’s was another example of how the Seahawks kept the Bears off-balance and controlled the line of scrimmage.

The No. 1 read in the zone-read option is the defensive end. If he crashes and goes after the running back, the quarterback keeps it. The Seahawks also used a variation in which a tight end essentially pulls to block the optioned defensive end.

Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije and Corey Wootton all faced it, but Peppers saw it most often. On third-and-two at the Bears’ 47 in overtime, Peppers went after running back Marshawn Lynch, and Wilson ran for five yards.

Overall, the Bears struggled to get to Wilson. He was sacked twice. According to Pro Football Focus, he completed 18 of 21 passes when not pressured by the Bears for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Other than the sacks, the official game stats credit the Bears for only two quarterback pressures.

Lynch had runs of 14 and 11 yards on read-option plays straight through the defense, while his four-yard touchdown run came on the tight end-pulling variation.

‘‘Just about every good defensive game we’ve played around here, we’ve all had something to do with that, player-wise,’’ Smith said. ‘‘And [Sunday] we all had something to do with that performance that we’re not proud of.

‘‘Got to make sure it doesn’t happen again.’’



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