Bears’ defense had holes, and Reggie Bush found them
BY ADAM L. JAHNS Staff Reporter September 29, 2013 6:28PM
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Updated: October 2, 2013 6:40PM
DETROIT — Cornerback Charles Tillman knew Lions running back Reggie Bush had a good day, but he hadn’t seen the final stat sheets and didn’t know exactly how good.
So he asked, and a reporter told him Bush had 139 yards rushing.
‘‘Yeah, that’s a good day,’’ Tillman said.
And it was the way Bush was able to beat the Bears in the Lions’ 40-32 victory Sunday at Ford Field that was alarming. He wasn’t turning short swing passes into long gains or benefitting from an effective screen game, like he typically has in his career. Instead, he was running the ball straight through the Bears’ defense. The holes were huge.
‘‘I didn’t get touched a whole
lot until I got to the secondary,’’ Bush said.
And the tackles Bush eluded landed some Bears starring roles on his highlight reel.
‘‘If we don’t tackle, we’ve got trouble, especially with a back like that,’’ safety Major Wright said.
Wright would know. Bush — who totaled 173 yards from scrimmage, including 112 yards rushing and a 10.2-yard average in the first half — literally leaped over him on his way into the end zone on a 37-yard run in the second quarter. It was part of a 21-0 burst aided by an interception by Jay Cutler and a 57-yard punt return by Micheal Spurlock.
But a bigger story is brewing here. Bush’s success only shed more light on some problems. He became the latest player to have a big game against the Bears, following Bengals receiver A.J. Green and Steelers receiver Antonio Brown.
The Bears’ bend-but-don’t-break defense is starting to buckle a ton. Its turnover-producing ways are like makeup on acne: They cover up deficiencies.
The Bears have allowed 340, 350, 459 and 387 yards from scrimmage in their first four games. They entered the game Sunday ranked 25th in total defense. Last season, they allowed 315.6 yards a game.
It might be too early to start arguing the Bears are lost without former coach Lovie Smith, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and linebacker Brian Urlacher. The Bears are 3-1, linebacker Lance Briggs has been outstanding and they have forced 14 takeaways this season, including an interception by Wright and fumble recoveries by ends Shea McClellin and Corey Wootton against the Lions.
But there are real concerns. And it’s more than just the lack of a consistent pass rush and the loss of tackle Henry Melton.
The Bears said they weren’t paying any extra attention to receiver Calvin Johnson (four catches, 44 yards, one touchdown). They knew what type of damage Bush was capable of inflicting, but he still went off.
‘‘Everything comes down to what we do,’’ Briggs said. ‘‘If we’re not disciplined and if we’re not getting to where we need to get, things like that are going to happen. They had a good game plan against us.’’
There was nothing the Lions executed up front that caught the Bears off-guard, either.
‘‘It just comes down to being gap-to-gap sound across the front — whether it’s D-line, the linebackers or the safeties — and you end up making the play when it comes to you,’’ said Wootton, who forced the fumble he recovered. ‘‘If you think about it, it was just a tackle here, a gap here.’’
The Bears’ defense was better in the second half, allowing only three points and stopping Bush. But too much damage was done earlier.
‘‘It’s tough,’’ Wootton said. ‘‘It’s been frustrating lately just because we haven’t been playing the way we know we’re capable of.’’