If ever a group needed a break in the schedule it’s the injury-ravaged Bears defense that has allowed at least 21 points to each of its first six opponents — only the second time that’s happened in franchise history.
The latest blow to the decimated unit came Friday afternoon when the Bears announced that starting middle linebacker D.J. Williams would miss the remainder of the season. The 10-year veteran suffered a torn left pectoralis muscle tendon in Thursday night’s 27-21 victory over the Giants.
The Bears have already lost defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins to season-ending knee injuries, and nose tackle Stephen Paea has missed the past two games with a toe injury. Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman has been hampered by groin and knee injuries for most of the season, and he was inactive Thursday night for the first time since 2009.
Tillman and Paea are both expected back for the Redskins, and backup safety Anthony Walters could return as well, after missing two games with a hamstring injury. But it’s unlikely any of them will be 100 percent.
Fortunately for the Bears, they have just one game in the next 24 days. After facing the Redskins a week from Sunday, the Bears have a bye the following week and aren’t back in action until Nov. 4 against the Packers in Green Bay. By then, the minor injuries could be healed, and backups thrust into starting roles will have had plenty of practice time.
Rookie Jon Bostic will step in for Williams, as he did after the third-quarter injury.
“I thought he was active, he was around the football,” Trestman said. “He’s going to get a lot of work on Monday and during the week. It’s the next-man-up mentality, and I think he’s mentally ready to take on playing that position. The experience that he had will certainly help him down the road.”
Bostic, who had 1 tackle Thursday night, started all four preseason games while Williams was sidelined with a hamstring injury. He played on special teams in each of the first five regular-season games.
“Preseason is one thing, and the regular season is totally different,” the second-round pick from Florida said. “This is something to show me you’ve got to be ready each and every week. You never know. Lance (Briggs) always says, ‘If you’re going to make a mistake, make it full speed.’ So, I was trying to do that. Obviously, there are going to be a lot of things I need to clean up on.”
Strong-side linebacker James Anderson also did not finish Thursday’s game because of a back injury. But Trestman does not consider that serious enough to keep him out of the Redskins game. Special teams standout Blake Costanzo took over for Anderson after he was hurt in the fourth quarter.
Despite Thursday night’s victory, which was made possible by 3 interceptions, the defense continued to show signs of attrition. It started the game without its top three tackles and its No. 1 corner and finished without two of its three starting linebackers.
“It was not our best performance, no doubt about it,” Trestman said Friday afternoon after watching the tape. “On the downside, third down and red zone certainly were not as productive as they had been the two weeks before.”
The Giants converted 7 of their 11 third-down opportunities (64 percent) and scored touchdowns both times they reached the red zone, capping drives of 80 and 91 yards. In what has become a chronic problem this season, missed tackles also haunted the Bears.
“Our tackling wasn’t as crisp,” Trestman said. “We certainly didn’t play as consistently as we have the last couple weeks.”
It’s time to regroup, and a favorable schedule buys the Bears’ defense some extra time to get well.
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