LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman still has faith in his team’s defense.
Struggling with injuries and already vulnerable against the run, the Bears gave up a season-high 258 yards rushing in a 42-21 loss at St. Louis on Sunday.
Even so, Trestman says he has no plans to shake up the lineup on defense.
“Not at this time. We’re going to talk about — we always have a personnel meeting. We talk about the players, but as of this moment, no.”
Trestman insists the problems on defense can be fixed, that he sees the potential to be better, and it will have to be if the Bears are going to seize a division that’s there for the taking.
They’re tied with Detroit for the NFC North lead at 6-5, with the Lions also losing and Green Bay struggling in a big way without Aaron Rodgers. The Packers are coming off a tie with Minnesota, which hosts the Bears this week.
And the way the Bears are defending the run, the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson is probably grinning ear to ear.
The Bears entered Sunday’s game 31st in the NFL in that area and their performance against the Rams did nothing to help.
Tavon Austin sparked a 21-point first quarter for St. Louis with a 65-yard touchdown on his lone run of the game. Benny Cunningham ran for 109 yards.
Zac Stacy added 87 rushing in the first half before being examined for concussion-like symptoms, and Chicago missed a chance to take sole possession of the division lead with its fifth loss in eight games.
There were missed assignments, missed tackles. Defensive end Shea McClellin took himself out of the play on the touchdown by Austin, who reversed field with a sharp 180-degree turn and sprinted to the end zone.
It wasn’t just fancy plays that did in the Bears. The Rams ran it up the middle, too, and it wasn’t just McClellin having a rough day.
Yet, Trestman insists he sees the potential in this defense.
“I’ve watched tape from practice where we fit the run exactly against the runs we’re going to see,” he said. “Yesterday, I saw us fit the runs exactly the way we saw them in practice and then I saw other times that we didn’t, and that’s the accountability side of it.
“We’ve got to do a better job. That starts with us, but also on our players to make sure they’re doing exactly what we’re asking them to do. We’ve got some young guys, some guys working at newer positions. But that’s everybody.”
The fact that they’ve lost a big chunk of their defense to injuries doesn’t help. Lance Briggs remains sidelined by a shoulder injury and will not play this week, Trestman said.
It’s not clear when newcomer Jeremiah Ratliff will be available. He’s recovering from a season-ending groin injury with Dallas last year.
Now, the Bears are preparing to face one of the league’s top rushers in Peterson, who set a record for a Chicago opponent by running 224 yards in a game in 2007.
Asked what Peterson will think when he watches the video, Chicago cornerback Zackary Bowman said, “That he’s going to have a big day against us.”
It wasn’t just the run defense that stood out.
Trestman raised some eyebrows when he decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the 1 and the Bears down by 10 early in the third quarter. Instead of a field goal, they came away empty-handed when Michael Bush got knocked for a 4-yard loss.
The Bears also committed 10 penalties, giving them 23 over the past two games.
A holding call negated a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown by Devin Hester, and they had to put in extra time for a 1-yard scoring run by Bush with 7:15 remaining after Martellus Bennett’s short TD catch was called back due to holding.
“Last week was a different kind of penalty issue than this week,” Trestman said. “Last week was focus. There were five six pre-snap penalties. We had one on a kickoff. We had one or two on defense. We had one or two on offense.
“That’s discipline, and I think we cleaned that up. When went in the dome, we didn’t have any pre-snap penalties on either side of the ball. We had nobody offside. The penalties that came up yesterday were unrelated to the same penalties a week ago.”
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