Bears’ defense must tackle better against Lions, Bush
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter November 6, 2013 9:21PM
MISSING THE POINT
The Bears have missed the second-most tackles in the league — trailing only the Washington Redskins — in Pro Football Focus’ reviews. Here are the top 10:
St. Louis 74
Tampa Bay 70
Green Bay 62
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When the opposition piles up nearly 200 rushing yards — like the Packers did Monday night against the Bears — a bunch of things have gone wrong on defense.
But defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said the problems boil down to the most basic element of football: tackling.
“It was mostly missed tackles [against the Packers],” Tucker said. “Obviously, we won’t be able to do a lot of tackling in practice this week, but that will still be a point of emphasis, drill work and things like that, and we have to get more guys to the ball, but it was mostly tackling, not necessarily [run] fits.”
This isn’t a one-game hiccup, either. It has been an issue all season, and it’s hurting the overall effectiveness — and morale — of the Bears’ defense.
Pro Football Focus’ reviews had the Bears with 13 missed tackles. Many of them probably came on running back James Starks’ 32-yard touchdown run up the middle in the first quarter.
“When you look at any run that goes over 15 yards, it’s not just up to one guy,” Tucker said.
On the season, PFF has the Bears with 79 missed tackles, the second-most in the league, trailing only the Redskins (82). Last year, the Bears missed 85 tackles in 16 games.
And there’s no quick fix.
“It’s not an easy thing to fix,” coach Marc Trestman said. “This is universal throughout the league because of the way we train now because of training camp. There’s very limited time to tackle. For us, it’s just the cost benefit of not doing it in training camp, of waiting to do it in the preseason and during the season. We certainly have to get better. Part of that is fitting the run better. We’ve got to do a better job.”
Of course, the opponent always factors into missed tackles. The Packers’ Eddie Lacy did it with brute power. The Lions’ Reggie Bush, whom the Bears will face Sunday, does it with speed.
Bush ran for 139 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the Lions’ 40-32 victory against the Bears in Week 4. It was an early sign of the Bears’ struggles against the run. PFF had the Bears with 11 missed tackles in that game — four by strong safety Major Wright.
“Those great running backs have a way of doing that,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “That’s just part of their skill set. That’s what God gave him — the ability to make guys miss and run out of tackles.
“Reggie has that ability.”
Poor tackling also looks worse when it’s the last line of defense missing them, too, and Wright and free safety Chris Conte have come under fire for their recent mistakes. In PFF’s tackling efficiency ratings for Week 9, they were among the worst of 46 safeties — Conte at 46 and Wright at 39.
It comes down to confidence for them.
“We just want to see those guys continue to play fast, play with confidence, be where they’re supposed to be and make the plays that are there for them to make,” Tucker said. “That’s all.”
But they’re not alone in their struggles. Every level of the defense has faltered.
“People are missing tackles all over the league,” Trestman said. “That’s not an excuse for us. We’ve got to do a better job. I know Mel’s making that — the guys are making that — a priority. Hopefully, we’ll get better. We need to get better this week in facing a guy like Reggie Bush and these big receivers they have.”