January 25, 2021

Bears can usually lean on defense. On Sunday, the D let them down

The minute Bears general manager Ryan Pace traded for outside linebacker Khalil Mack, the Bears defense went from good to elite. Sunday's 41-25 loss to the Green Bay Packers showed that a team can only rely on one side of the ball for so long.

The Bears defense finally let the team down.

It’s happened a time or two before over the previous two and a half seasons, but no example was as glaring as Sunday’s defeat. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers carved up the Bears. With Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks out with a hamstring injury, Packers running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams ran for chunks of yards again and again.

Jones finished with 90 yards on 17 carries, while Williams totaled 73 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

“That’s probably one of the most disappointing parts is how [the defense played] for most of the game,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said. “Because against a quarterback like that, I think when you run the ball [39] times – and you have a couple of guys that have almost 20 rushes per guy and almost 100 yards – they’re getting some yards there on the run. You felt that early on. That’s where, again, our team has been relying on our defense and they’re not always going to play perfect.”

Sunday night was far from perfect. Mack described it as “unacceptable.”

The Packers as a team rushed for 182 yards. It was the highest total against a Bears defense since Washington ran for 208 on Dec. 24, 2016, against the Bears.

“It starts with first and second down today,” Mack said. “They did a lot of things on first and second down, running the ball was one of them. That’s not acceptable for us. We gave up way too much [on] first and second downs, let them run the ball at will.”

Hicks’ absence can’t be understated, especially with nose tackle Eddie Goldman opted out of the 2020 season. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the Packers ran inside the tackles 25 times for 150 yards and a touchdown.

The Bears defense has bailed the team out time and time again over the past few seasons. Against Rodgers, without their Pro Bowl tackle, it wasn’t going to happen.

“Obviously, losing to this team on a night like this is huge,” Mack said. “It is a low, but at the same time, there’s nothing that’s going to take us off our pivot. Just rebound and get ready for the next one.”

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.