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Bears’ defense missing in action

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Updated: December 27, 2013 6:23AM



The first question to coach Marc Trestman on Monday was about Jay Cutler. Trestman informed us he’s out for the game Sunday against the Vikings, though he’s certain to return sometime. But
unless Cutler can tackle, fit in the right gap or play safety, he’s the least of the Bears’ injury problems right now.

The Bears need more help than Cutler can give them. The biggest question of all is when linebacker Lance Briggs will be back. And then defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff. Even defensive tackle Stephen Paea is missed more than Cutler right now.

I have no idea who was supposed to block Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar when he sailed through the Bears’ line to tackle Michael Bush for a four-yard loss on fourth-and-goal Sunday. But I’ve heard enough and learned enough about ‘‘run fits’’ to know the Bears aren’t very good at them. And I’ve seen enough to know they’re not likely to get that much better at it without the
return of Briggs and Paea and the addition of Ratliff.

The demise of the Bears’ once-vaunted defense is reaching embarrassing proportions. After allowing 258 rushing yards in their 42-21 loss to the Rams, the Bears dropped from 27th to 32nd — dead last — in the NFL in run defense. And their 145 rushing yards allowed per game doesn’t tell the story. The Bears have allowed an average of 197 rushing yards in their last five games

Trestman said his team will go back to work to shore up a defense that is on pace to allow more points than any team in Bears history. But that doesn’t mean it will get fixed. Did he ever face a predicament like this in five seasons in the Canadian Football League? Is there any evidence that it’s even possible to close a wound like this and save the patient?

‘‘Every situation is different,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘I don’t know that I’ve been in quite this situation that we’re in here in five years I was [with the Alouettes]. But I will say that there’s evidence that if we do it right, we can get it done. We’ve just got to do it on a more consistent basis.’’

That’s what he always says.

‘‘I know that sounds like something I’ve said many times, but that’s the fact,’’ he said. ‘‘When we do it right, when we take it from walkthrough to the practice, where we show the guys on tape that they’ve done it right, then we see it [in the game].

‘‘Even [against the Rams], we see it on tape where we fit the run right . . . and we make the play giving up reasonable yardage — two or three yards. And then we’ll see it again, and we don’t do it right. So it’s a combination of all 11 guys working together, and I’m going to see the glass half-full. I don’t know any other way to do it. There’s still time to get it done.’’

The ‘‘glass half-full’’ thing sounds eerily familiar, but that’s not the only reason to doubt Trestman’s optimism. For all the progress the Bears have made on
offense under Trestman this season, they seem to have hit a wall. They have committed 23 penalties in their last two games after committing 40 in their first nine. And after Trestman emphasized focus and a better start last week, Matt Forte fumbled on his first carry and Kyle Long lost his cool and drew a 15-yard roughness penalty.

Trestman lauded the Bears’ offensive line, particularly left tackle Jermon Bushrod. But the eye test and Pro Football Focus said otherwise. Bushrod had a rock-bottom minus-11.1 rating from PFF and allowed seven of the Bears’ 17 hurries.

This doesn’t look like a problem coaching can fix. The Bears’ best chance to solve their defensive woes is to get healthy — or as healthy as they can get.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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