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Pitiful performance by the defense puts coordinator Mel Tucker on the hot seat

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Updated: January 25, 2014 6:25AM



Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker seemed to anticipate that a question about his future was coming. A miserable performance such as the 54-11 throttling his defense endured Sunday in Philadelphia against the Eagles would put the proverbial nail in a lot of coaches’ coffins at this time of year.

So is he worried about his future with the team?

“No, I don’t [worry about it],” Tucker said Monday. “I just stay focused on the task at hand and working to teach, motivate and develop and work with these guys and get them ready for the next outing, and that’s really my main focus.”

Coach Marc Trestman recently praised Tucker for literally that kind of work during his first season in charge of the defense. It was all the blood, sweat and tears that Tucker had invested in the rookies and other young players that Trestman highly valued and commended.

But the Eagles’ ability to amass 514 yards of total ­offense with little resistance in Week 16 of a season that has seen the Bears free-fall as a team defensively is more than alarming. It’s arguably the biggest red flag in a season full of many.

In other words, has Tucker’s body of work become a fireable offense?

Opponents have accumulated a franchise-worst 5,840 yards against the Bears, which includes a whopping 2,423 yards on the ground. If the Green Bay Packers’ running backs repeat what they did in their first meeting, this Bears team also will go down as the worst run defense in franchise history. Only the 1973 defense is worse, ­giving up 2,509 rushing yards in 14 games. These Bears have allowed 21 rushing touchdowns, which ties the second-most in team history.

Tucker called the loss against the Eagles “a very disappointing outing” where “we took a step back” after signs of progress in victories against the Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns.

According to Tucker, the Eagles, who ran for 289 yards and four touchdowns, have primarily five runs coming out of different formations. He said the Bears missed at least 20 tackles.

“Sometimes we’re in the right place, but we’re just not winning the one-on-ones or you missed a tackle,” Tucker said.

Trestman had even stronger words.

“Defensively, it was a poor performance,” he said. “We missed a lot of tackles. We weren’t efficient in the red zone. We weren’t efficient on third down. We couldn’t get off the field, couldn’t contain the quarterback. Our screen fits weren’t good.”

Tucker was dealt a tough hand to begin with. Replacing former coach Lovie Smith as the man in charge of the defense wasn’t going to be a smooth transition, even if he kept the terminology the same.

The number of injuries and the caliber of players lost to them have been colossal detriments, causing Tucker to change his practices so the rookies get more instruction and work on fundamentals. And it’s not as though Tucker can race out on the field, get in position, fill gaps and make tackles himself.

With the defense due for a makeover because of all the expiring contracts, Tucker might get a second chance to really put his stamp on the defense by abandoning all things Lovie.

If anything, Trestman still believes in him.

“I said this throughout the last two weeks: We did see some work moving forward,” Trestman said. “And the guys took a step backward. The only way I can evaluate it is presently. Two weeks of getting a little better at what we were doing — not where we want to be — and a week where we took a step back.”

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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