Defense can’t get act together after ‘O’ gets Bears back in game
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter November 24, 2013 7:39PM
Updated: November 24, 2013 9:11PM
ST. LOUIS — The Bears’ defense looks as though it has nothing left.
Unable to thwart the hardly imposing one-two punch of Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham, the Bears allowed big plays early and often in a 42-21 loss Sunday to the St. Louis Rams.
They were fooled by Tavon Austin’s 65-yard end-around that went for a touchdown.
They’ve lost their knack for takeaways. When Cunningham recovered his own fumble in the third quarter, it was the ninth fumble in a row the Bears had failed to recover.
And in arguably the biggest indictment of the day, when the defense had a chance to atone for a miserable game and prove it still could be counted on — in what would have been called a ‘‘character moment’’ had it succeeded — it collapsed.
After Michael Bush capped one of the most laborious touchdown drives in franchise history with a one-yard run to cut the Rams’ lead to 27-21 with 7:15 left in the fourth quarter, it looked as though all the Bears needed was one stop to give Josh McCown and the offense a chance at a come-from-behind victory.
Instead, the Rams drove 80 yards in nine plays for a touchdown that all but sealed their victory.
‘‘It was a big opportunity,’’ safety Chris Conte said. ‘‘And it’s not like we lost; we got beaten pretty badly. It hurts a lot. But we’re going to be resilient. We’re going to watch the film and be better next week.’’
After a disappointing effort against the Rams cost the Bears a chance to take the lead in the NFC North, there doesn’t seem to be enough practice, film study or resilience that can help them.
The Bears allowed 406 yards to an offense that entered the game ranked 27th in the NFL at 317 yards per game. They allowed nine rushing plays of 10 yards or more to give them 49 for the season, the most in the league.
And they almost literally can’t stop anybody. When Stacy was injured after rushing for 87 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, Cunningham replaced him and finished with 109 yards on 13 carries. Cunningham became the seventh running back to gain 100 or more yards against the Bears’ defense. He came into the game with one rush of 10 yards or longer this season, but he had five in 13 carries against the Bears.
The onslaught started early, when Austin took a pitch on an end-around heading left, immediately reversed his field and made the Bears look like they never had seen an end-around before — even though their own offense runs more of them than any team in the NFL.
‘‘I’ve never seen that before,’’ defensive end Shea McClellin said of that play. ‘‘We’ve just got to play our keys better and move on.’’
‘‘They had a good scheme on that play, and it just resulted in a big play,’’ Conte said. ‘‘We’ve got to find a way to get the guy down.’’
Expecting to take a step forward, the defense took a step back. Next up are Adrian Peterson and the Vikings at the Metrodome.
‘‘We’re frustrated and disappointed,’’ defensive end Julius Peppers said. ‘‘But we’re not to the point where we’re ready to give up. That’s never going to happen. We’re never going to say we can’t get the problem fixed because it is fixable.
‘‘We’re going to start doing the little things right. We’re going to simplify it even more than it has been [simplified]. We’re going to continue to work at it until it is fixed.’’