Bears defense has found ways to move past the injuries
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter November 18, 2013 10:08PM
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Updated: December 20, 2013 6:28AM
For coach Marc Trestman, it was time to check in with Julius Peppers. So Peppers, a Pro Bowl defensive end in every season he has been with the Bears, was called up to his office.
The Bears need Peppers more than ever with all their injuries.
“We’ve chatted in my office a couple of times, just to catch up on things,” Trestman said Monday. “I just feel like he’s got a lot of pride in this football team. He doesn’t want to let it down. He’s done everything he can to get himself ready.
“[Defensive coordinator] Mel [Tucker] and [defensive line coach] Mike Phair have managed his practice time very well to make sure that at his stage of his career his best is on Sunday. He’s going to know what to do and how to do it. But he’s ready to give his best on Sunday and we got a little bit of that [against the Baltimore Ravens].”
Consider the Bears’ management of Peppers one of the countless things they’re doing to maximize their injury-plagued defense. Getting Peppers to remain on the level of his standout performance against the Ravens — two sacks, four tackles for loss and career-best 11 tackles — is as much a point of emphasis as developing their young players on defense.
It’s been an arduous season for the defense, but over the last three games — highlighted by a goal-line stand against the Ravens — Trestman’s confidence in the unit has grown.
“It grows, because I see what we’re doing in practice [and] I see the work that’s being put in,” Trestman said. “I stand behind the defense during their periods and I see the run fits getting better, the communication getting better.
“I like that our coaches are embracing the development of our young players. We’re not spending time thinking about the loss of some of the players that we’ve lost. We’ve taken all that energy into building the best defense we can to play good team football.”
There’s still work to do. Giving up 209, 199, 145 and 174 rushing yards in consecutive weeks is unacceptable. And they’ve had some good fortune with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers breaking his collarbone and the storms affecting play on Sunday.
But there are definitely signs of progress. Trestman pointed to the Ravens being able to convert only two of their last 11 third downs. It was trend that carried over from last week when the Detroit Lions converted two of their last nine.
“That tells me that and should tell us that we’re doing some things defensively [and that] Mel’s making some adjustments to get it done,” Trestman said.
Overall, the defense has allowed 20, 21 and 20 points in the last three weeks, which should be enough for Trestman’s offense, regardless of who is at quarterback.
Their success definitely affects how Trestman calls his offense, too. His decision to punt on fourth-and-short in the fourth quarter on the Ravens’ 44 is an example.
“I’m confident that we’re doing [the right things] weekly,” Trestman said. “So when the game comes and it doesn’t go well at some points during the game, it doesn’t really change my feelings overall of how we’re going to call the game offensively or manage the game until more of it evolves.”
The defense’s resilience will be tested again this week in St. Louis. Linebacker Lance Briggs (fractured shoulder) is weeks away, nose tackle Stephen Paea (turf toe) is week to week and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (groin) remains out.
But “no doubt about it” there has been significant progress made by the young players, especially linebacker Jon Bostic, who “had his best game in terms of his physicality in terms of running form sideline to sideline,” Trestman said.
“We just have to continue to work, build confidence in these young guys [and] continue to get our continuity together,” Trestman said.