July 31, 2014
During the week leading up to the eighth game of the 2012 season, Chris Conte and Major Wright were considered a young, blossoming safety tandem — a possible long-term solution to a revolving-door problem for the Bears.
Conte and Wright had started 13 games together at that point, and all the numbers said quarterbacks struggled with them on the field — a combined 64.3 passer rating, a 58.7 completion percentage and 24 interceptions against nine touchdowns.
That seems like such a long time ago.
With the Bears playing their eighth game Monday night against the offensively potent Green Bay Packers, doubts about Conte and Wright are growing.
Poor performances against the Washington Redskins in Week 7 — Wright received a minus-4.8 rating and Conte a minus-4.5 in Pro Football Focus’ reviews — highlighted their struggles.
But are their failures all their fault?
“When you play safety, you have to do it all — fit in the run game, be in position in the pass game, everything,” defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. “A lot of what we do and most of what we do is not up to just one guy. Usually, it’s a team effort. Sometimes the safety can be in a spot where maybe it looks like he hasn’t done his job, but that’s not necessarily the case.”
Before he was injured, linebacker Lance Briggs had similar things to say coming off the Bears’ victory against the New York Giants.
“We’ve had some bonehead plays where some of our players left our safeties out on an island and made it very difficult on them — or for any safety in this league — to make a play,” Briggs said.
For what it’s worth, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the Bears’ secondary is playing extremely well and that Conte and Wright are keys to that.
But that won’t stop McCarthy from attacking them, especially if the Bears continue to struggle to generate a pass rush. No players would benefit more from improved defensive-line play — Bears defensive linemen have accounted for only four sacks — than Conte and Wright.
Asked about his safeties, coach Marc Trestman wouldn’t say what he’d do if he were McCarthy, only suggesting that they’ll learn more about Conte and Wright soon enough.
“I don’t know whether that’s the reality or that’s an aberration,” Trestman said about the shootout against the Redskins. “We’re certainly going to find out a lot more on Monday night against an elite player like Aaron Rodgers and a really good football team in the Packers.”
Fair or not, Conte and Wright understand the criticism coming their way.
“Sometimes it is [unfair], but it’s the game,” Wright said. “We know that. But we know what we got, and we know what’s at stake for us. It’s our job to get everybody down.”