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There’s little defense for Bears’ bad defense

Lions wide receiver CalvJohns(81) pulls away from Chicago Bears free safety BrandMeriweather (31) 73-yard touchdown receptiMonday night. |  Rick

Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) pulls away from Chicago Bears free safety Brandon Meriweather (31) on a 73-yard touchdown reception Monday night. | Rick Osentoski~AP

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Updated: January 23, 2012 4:02AM



Bears defenders, who aspired during the preseason to be the top unit in the league, weren’t even on the same page after the team’s 24-13 loss Monday to the Detroit Lions.

Several veterans were adamant they could regroup with the same personnel and scheme. But cornerback Tim Jennings had a more interesting — and puzzling — perspective.

‘‘Find our identity,’’ Jennings said. ‘‘Every man just needs to do his job. Find our identity, get mad at the situation and do something about it.’’

If nothing else, coach Lovie Smith has been committed to a particular defensive scheme, one founded on stopping the run, pressuring the quarterback with four defensive linemen and preventing big plays.

There are nuances and twists, but the Bears won the NFC North last season largely because of their ninth-ranked defense, a unit that was at or near the top of the league in several key categories.

After five games this season, though, the Bears are among the six worst teams in the league against the run and against the pass, and they are giving up explosive plays at an alarming rate.

According to STATS, the 2010 Bears gave up 44 passes and 13 runs of 20 or more yards, including seven that went for touchdowns. The two longest such plays were 59- and 53-yard touchdown catches by Deion Branch and Percy Harvin, respectively.

The 2011 Bears are on pace to give up 73 plays of 20 or more yards, and they already have allowed three touchdowns of 70-plus yards. Two of those happened Monday in Detroit, where Calvin Johnson scored on a
73-yard pass from Matthew Stafford and Jahvid Best raced untouched through a gaping hole in the Bears’ defensive line for an 88-yard touchdown.

‘‘We really had three big plays that were critical,’’ defensive end Israel Idonije said. ‘‘It’s about being consistent. That’s really it. Two steps forward, then one step back. It was disappointing because we’re better than that.’’

Not this season.

The Bears have given up 100 or more rushing yards in all five games this season. They allowed that many eight times last season, and teams averaged 90.1 yards against them — second to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

They have yielded 350 or more net offensive yards in all five games this season, including 543 to the Carolina Panthers. They allowed that many seven times last season.

They already have allowed nine passing touchdowns this season after giving up 14 — the second-fewest in the NFL — last season.

‘‘Right now, we just really need to get back to the fundamentals of football,’’ cornerback Charles Tillman said. ‘‘I feel our scheme is not difficult, but we seem to keep messing up. We’re doing the same thing we did last year — aame defense, same players.’’

Tillman said Smith and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli would ‘‘be men and blame themselves.’’

‘‘But it really falls on the players,’’ Tillman said. ‘‘They’re doing everything in their power. We, as players, can definitely man up and make the plays.’’

With a 2-3 record, though, the Bears are running out of time to make amends. Coming to Soldier Field on Sunday are the Minnesota Vikings, who pummeled the Arizona Cardinals 34-10 for their first victory Sunday.

‘‘There’s no magical solution to it,’’ safety Chris Harris said. ‘‘We’ve just got to keep playing. We’re a little behind, but no one can hit the panic button. But there has to be more of a sense of urgency.’’



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