MORRISSEY: Rams running over Bears shouldn’t have surprised anyone
BY RICK MORRISSEY Sports Columnist November 27, 2013 8:20PM
Updated: December 30, 2013 12:13PM
I’ve been amused by the continued public anger and bitterness brought on by the Bears’ pathetic defense against the Rams, as though what happened in St. Louis was some sort of stunning development that had dropped out of the sky.
What part of the defense being awful lo these many weeks had you failed to comprehend?
The Bears are without linebackers Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams, cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Kelvin Hayden and defensive linemen Henry Melton, Nate Collins and Stephen Paea. They have been without many of those injured players for quite a while now. They are using players you haven’t heard of. When those no-name players told friends and family they were starting an NFL game, they were met with looks of profound disappointment. Nobody likes a liar.
Being mad at this defense is like being mad at an orphanage.
The Bears’ run defense ranked 27th out of 32 teams going into the game against the Rams. Hello? You thought by some combination of coaching and holy water that the Bears suddenly were going to morph into a respectable unit? Bartender, I’ll have whatever they’re having.
What is it that surprises you? That safety Chris Conte and defensive end Shea McClellin aren’t good?
What is it you think can be done about it? That defensive coordinator Mel Tucker should be able to polish cow pies into French pastries?
The Bears’ run defense dropped to the bottom of the rankings after giving up 258 rushing yards to the Rams, so I understand the freshest cut is the one that hurts the most. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, we knew there was a chance something like that might happen, given the earlier struggles.
And here comes the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, the best running back in football, to face the Bears on Sunday. Now, I ask you: Can you imagine any scenario in which they stop Peterson in the Metrodome, outside of sending 12 tacklers at him and hoping the officials don’t notice? It’s impossible to imagine any scenario, so why not resign yourself to the inevitable? Your life will be so much more peaceful.
(Please don’t contact me to complain about the absence of Brian Urlacher on the Bears’ roster or to ask about the possibility of Urlacher coming back to the team. You will be hunted down and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Thank you.)
The term of the moment in the NFL is ‘‘run fits.’’ It refers to defensive players being in proper position to make tackles on running backs in the gaps between offensive linemen. The Bears aren’t good at it, and no amount of teaching is going to make up for the fact they don’t have the athletes to pull it off. And you know what that means: a lack of ‘‘gap integrity.’’ I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.
You haven’t been hearing much in the way of ‘‘next-man-up’’ exhortations from general manager Phil Emery lately, quite possibly because he knows that the next men up are getting knocked down like bowling pins and that he’s responsible for signing many of them. Backups — and backups to backups — aren’t as good as starters. No amount of coach speak can change that. But Evel Knievel would have backed away from the gap between Bears starters and reserves.
If that were the only problem. Not only does it appear Emery missed on McClellin, his first-round pick in 2012, but he picked a guy who plays out of control and fails to keep containment. That shouldn’t be happening in a player’s second season. And how
Emery couldn’t see that Conte would
be overmatched as a starter in 2013, based on his two previous seasons, is beyond me.
So help me here: Why would anybody be shocked by what happened against the Rams last week? A team that had relied on a number of aging defensive players is absolutely lost with them on the sidelines. The ability to force turnovers, the only thing that stopped the Bears from mediocrity when those veterans were healthy, went to the sidelines with them. And here we are, stunned?
At 6-5, the Bears are tied for first place in the NFC North. The offense is good. Quarterback Josh McCown, who will start against the Vikings, continues to play well in place of injured Jay Cutler. I hope all of this makes you feel better on Thanksgiving.
Did I mention Adrian Peterson is up next?