It looks dismal for Bears' defense
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In Monday's postmortem following the 45-41 loss to Washington, while looking ahead to this week's open date, Bears coach Marc Trestman said: "I wanted the coaches to get away for a few days."
The question many wondered, at least regarding the defensive staff members, was: Will they come back?
They don't have much to look forward to. The future appears bleak for a Bears defense that is on pace to allow more points (470), total yards (6,256) and passing yards (4,379) than any team in franchise history. The Bears have allowed 21 points or more in the first seven games of a season for the first time.
And that was with seven-time Pro Bowl weakside linebacker Lance Briggs, who is fifth in the league with 64 tackles, according to NFL statistics. But Briggs (shoulder) won't be back until December, at the earliest.
Coordinator Mel Tucker's defense ranks 32nd — in a 32-team league — in average gain allowed per pass play, 31st in sack percentage, 30th in yards allowed per play, 28th in third-down efficiency and points allowed, 27th in passing yards allowed and 25th in rushing yards allowed.
"We've got to get better," coach Marc Trestman said. "A lot of that's just alignments and assignments. It's not relative to talent."
Trestman was right about the defense needing to get better and improve in its alignments and assignments. His words were echoed by general manager Phil Emery, but they're wrong about talent. The horrendous start has everything to do with talent — the lack of it.
To be fair, the defensive talent pool has been drained by injuries to Henry Melton, Nate Collins, D.J. Williams and now Briggs. And two-time Pro Bowl Charles Tillman has been playing on a sore right knee for much of the season; if doesn't get better soon, look out below.
It isn't as if the Bears are being gashed by elite opponents, although the Lions and Saints both have top-10 offenses. But the Vikings (19th), Bengals (22nd), Giants (27th) and Steelers (28th) are all in the bottom half of NFL teams in scoring.
So Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers shouldn't be blamed if he gets caught looking past the Vikings on Sunday in anticipation of attacking the Bears' defense on Monday night, Nov. 4.
"We're not where we wanted to be," Trestman said. "We're not even close. We're certainly not the defense we want to be, and our guys know that. Mel was very clear to them about what we have to do to give our football team a chance to win. When we come back on Monday that's where we're going to start."
Any improvement needs to begin up front. The D-line's inability to get to the quarterback or slow down the run game has exposed weaknesses in the back seven, specifically at safety, where coverage has been lacking and tackling has been inconsistent.
An effective front four would mask those deficiencies, but "effective" waved bye-bye to the Bears' D-line when Melton and Collins went out and Julius Peppers got old overnight.
Bears defensive linemen have combined for a pitiful total of 4 sacks in seven games. There are 34 individual players in the NFL who have as many or more sacks than all nine of the defensive lineman who have played for the Bears this season. If Peppers (1 sack) isn't embarrassed by that, he should be.
You could hardly blame Rodgers is he looks past the Vikings and ahead to the Week 9 against the Bears. The 4-2 Packers have climbed past the 4-3 Bears in the NFC North despite injuries to linebacker Clay Matthews, wide receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones, and now tight end Jermichael Finley.
Bears players believe they can do the same, but they've lost three of four games.
"We still have Peanut (Tillman) out there," cornerback Tim Jennings said. "We have myself. We've got Julius. But one guy is not going to carry us all (with Briggs out). We need every guy to do his job and be where he's supposed to be to pick up the slack."
That will help, but it won't cure all that ails this Bears defense.
•Follow Bob's NFL and Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.
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