LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman isn’t asking defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to magically solve all that ails the club’s injury-ravaged defense with exotic schemes that, in the end, might prove to be more trouble than they're worth.
For Trestman, the task of improving the NFL’s 20th-ranked defense is “a collective responsibility that doesn’t just weigh on one person.”
“I think that any time you have a change, it starts with coaching, but it’s also the players [who] have to be accountable for doing their job in the right place, being in the right alignment, no pre-snap penalties, being focused,” Trestman said. “We always talk about it. Nobody has to carry the weight, not the coaches, not the players. If we all just do our jobs, we can relax and enjoy not only the moment, but the game. That’s what we’re trying to get done.”
It’s proven to be more difficult than Trestman makes it sound. The Bears rank 23rd against the pass, and haven’t limited an opponent to fewer than 21 points through the first six games.
Obviously, injuries are a contributor to the problems. The Bears lost nickel cornerback Kelvin Hayden to a season-ending hamstring injury, in addition to defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins and middle linebacker D.J. Williams. The attrition up front has affected chemistry among the defensive line, which has posted just eight sacks thus far.
The lack of pressure, meanwhile, plays a role in leaving the secondary in coverage for too long, resulting in completions for opposing quarterbacks.
The Bears have utilized five different starting lineups up front through the first six games.
But as bleak as Chicago’s prospects look, the defense has compensated for the injuries with its knack for forcing turnovers. The Bears are tied for second in the NFL in takeaways (17), have scored four defensive touchdowns and are first in points scored off turnovers (62).
Chicago has captured victories in 10 consecutive outings in which they’ve scored a touchdown on defense. So the trend needs to continue.
“I think [the coaching staff is] doing an outstanding job of putting our football team in a position to succeed collectively. I really do believe that. We just have to work through these moments,” Trestman said. “This is part of the NFL marathon. These are the day-to-day issues that you have: a new player, a young player, somebody you brought in off the street to try to help your football team, whatever it is. There's two ways to look at it, and we just prefer to embrace the opportunity to bring these guys along to help them live their dream, and hopefully be a part of our football team that can help us succeed down the road. It's nothing that 31 other teams aren't going through right now in some way.”