Bears’ ‘D’ must get act together to prevent further humiliation
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter November 26, 2013 9:34PM
Updated: November 28, 2013 8:19PM
Sweetheart, get me a ticket to Vegas.
A respected Las Vegas bookmaker estimates the over/under on Adrian Peterson’s rushing yards Sunday against the Bears will be 109.5. After the great Benny Cunningham rushed for 109 yards against the Bears’ defense last week on 13 carries, most Chicagoans figure Peterson will hit that mark well before halftime.
It’s torturous enough that the Bears are facing the miracle ACL patient of all time just six days after Derrick Rose underwent yet another knee surgery — Peterson missed one whole game after tearing his ACL in 2011 and came back better than ever. But it’s particularly daunting for the Bears, who are last in the NFL in run defense and are in the worst kind of football hell — they’re getting worse when they’re trying as hard as they can to get better.
A week after allowing 174 rushing yards to the Ravens, the Bears gave up 258 to the Rams. The Bears are allowing an average of 197 rushing yards in their last five games. And now they step way up in class against Peterson, second in the NFL in rushing (997 yards, 4.4 yards per carry) with 10 touchdowns on a team ranked 28th in the league in passer rating (75.0).
Peterson is one of seven backs to rush for 100 yards or more against the Bears, but they did a better job against him than the other six. They held him to 100 yards and no TDs on 26 carries in a 31-30 victory at Soldier Field in Week 2, including 37 yards on 15 carries in the second half. The Vikings had a first-and-goal at the Bears’ 6-yard line with a chance to clinch the game with a TD. But D.J. Williams stopped Peterson for a two-yard gain, and Henry Melton stopped Peterson for no gain to force the Vikings to settle for a field goal and give the Bears room for a late touchdown that won the game.
But there’s the rub. Melton and Williams no longer are around. Since that game, the Bears have lost five key defensive players to injuries: Melton, Williams and Nate Collins are out for the season. Charles Tillman is out for the rest of the regular season. And Lance Briggs will miss his fifth consecutive game Sunday. And that doesn’t include defensive tackle Stephen Paea, who might miss his fourth game with a sprained toe.
With the Bears (6-5) still in the playoff picture, the heat is on coordinator Mel Tucker to fix a hemorrhaging defense without a tourniquet.
It’s a familiar predicament for Tucker. Last year as the defensive coordinator in Jacksonville, the injury-riddled Jaguars dropped from ninth in the NFL in rushing defense in 2011 to 30th. He didn’t really get it fixed until Week 17 — way too late.
The Bears’ plummet from eighth to 32nd against the run outdoes that free fall. But when you have an offense, there’s always hope. The Patriots have dropped from ninth to 31st against the run this season. They allowed 280 rushing yards to the Broncos on Sunday night. But when it came time to make a difference, the run defense was as good as it needed to be.
In overtime, Knowshon Moreno was dropped for a one-yard loss and held to a three-yard gain to set up a third-and-long incompletion that led to a punt that led to the Patriots’ possession that won the game.
That’s why the Pats, with a 21st-ranked defense and an offense (ninth overall) ranked lower than the Bears’, are 8-3 with a three-game lead in the AFC East. Even if you’re not very good, you can still find a way to win.