Bears’ defense keeps holding up its end of bargain
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org September 16, 2012 11:36PM
In other news ... the Bears still have a defense.
Overshadowed by the offensive meltdown that included seven sacks, four interceptions, Matt Forte’s injury and Jay Cutler’s fit of petulance in a 23-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night was another strong performance by the Bears’ aging defense.
Even with middle linebacker Brian Urlacher showing the effects of two knee injuries that idled him most of the offseason, the defense gave the Bears a chance to win into the fourth quarter.
The Bears sacked Aaron Rodgers five times, intercepted him once and held him to one touchdown pass with a long play of 26 yards and an 85.3 passer rating — Rodgers’ second-lowest passer rating in the last 23 regular-season games he has finished. He missed wide receiver Greg Jennings, who didn’t play because of an injury. But that still left Rodgers with enough weapons to torment the Bears’ defense. He’s done it before.
The Packers’ average of 4.9 yards per play against the Bears wasn’t only the lowest in the Packers’ last 24 games including the playoffs, it was even lower than their 5.3-yard average against the vaunted 49ers’ defense in Week 1.
It was effective enough that Rodgers was asked if other opponents will try a similar cover-2 strategy.
‘‘I don’t think anybody’s going to play us the way Chicago does,’’ he said. ‘‘They try to prevent the big play and keep everything in front of them. They do a good job of rallying to the football and making plays on the ball. You’ve got to give them credit. They’re a solid defense.’’
End Julius Peppers had two sacks. Linebacker Lance Briggs led the Bears with 10 tackles. Cornerback Charles Tillman had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. But others made impact plays that bode well for the future, beginning with the game Sunday against the St. Louis Rams at Soldier Field.
Cornerback Tim Jennings had a tackle for loss, two pass breakups and an interception. Defensive tackle Henry Melton had a sack and a tackle for loss.
Backup ends Shea McClellin and Corey Wootton fortified a strong performance by the defensive line. McClellin had 1 1/2 sacks of Rodgers — sharing one with Wootton — and added two hurries.
But if the offense continues to struggle against quality opponents, the Bears’ defense is in the familiar position of having to do too much. Briggs dropped what looked like an easy interception late in the first half. Safety Major Wright was burned for a 26-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver early in the fourth quarter. Jennings’ interception didn’t come until after the Packers had built a 23-3 lead.
‘‘There are definitely some things we can work on,’’ Tillman said. ‘‘We’ll go back to Halas [Hall] and work harder for the Rams. That’s the focus. We lost. We got our asses kicked, and [I’ll] put it behind me. I’m already on Week 3. There’s a lot to learn from [the Packers] game.’’