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Bears Rock Bottom Against the Run

The Bears haven't had a four-game stretch against the run like this in almost a decade but coach Matt Eberflus thought it would end when he gambled and punted late Sunday and he was right.

Last at stopping the run in the NFL, the Bears are an open invitation for offenses across the league. 

Coach Matt Eberflus knows it.

"It's tough," Eberflus said. "The NFL's tough now. If you show something that you had, they're going to keep attacking it.

"So you gotta make sure that you shore those things up, and that's how the NFL is. That's what makes it so great. So, we've got some work to do. We've got some work to do there."

Easier said than done.

The Bears have given up 733 yards rushing in four games. It's the most they've given up in a four-game stretch since Marc Trestman's first year of 2013, when they allowed 876 yards from weeks 11-14.

"It's technique," Eberflus said.

Well, that and Saquon Barkley. 

Not every opponent has a back like Barkley, although this week's does. Minnesota Vikings back Dalvin Cook can take down a defense by himself.

For Eberflus, these problems stopping the run are something new. In Indianapolis, his defenses finished top 10 all four years at stopping the run and finished second once.

However, it wasn't always that easy. In the first half of his first season, they allowed 100 yards or more rushing six times. In the second half, they allowed 100 or more twice.

Bears players felt like the Giants hit them with something they hadn't really expected, although actually stopping it was more on them than the coaching staff's preparation.

"Just a lot of them just hitting us with a lot of 13 personnel boot," safety Saquan Barkley said.

The Giants used one running back and three tight ends, which isn't uncommon. However, then they ran bootlegs off of it with quarterback Daniel Jones.

"Just trying to run a lot of boots to the nub, which you really don't see, which they haven't shown," Brisker said. "Just a lot of boots to the nub. Him really not scrambling, him not really throwing the ball at all."

They kept doing it because it kept working.

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"Yeah, there were a lot of quarterback runs as well, more than we anticipated," agreed Roquan Smith. "But in the league, you just have to adjust on the fly."

Brisker felt like his own play in such situations was inconsistent becaue he wasn't looking in the right places.

"My eyes could be on point. I'll say that," Brisker said.

He was peeking into the backfield, not something he necessarily did too much at Penn State last year. However, it can cause a safety to freeze and give away time on task along with yardage.

"I'll say, you know when I'm defeating a block, if I defeat a block first and then start looking cause I'm pretty good at doing multitasking, which I was doing on the field," Brisker said. "But if I feel like I want to be more cleaner, I could defeat the block first and then get to the ball or get to the flat or the third or whatever it is on that down."

Brisker was hardly the only guilty party. 

Safety Eddie Jackson got caught failing to maintain gap integrity on Barkley's first big run. Jackson charged upfield, then went inside, leaving a huge hole between tackle and tight end.

Something similar happened with other players, too. Robert Quinn got caught up with the push inside and then was sealed off from getting outside to stop the bootleg run or Barkley at times.

Smith even got burned on a QB scramble by Tyrod Taylor.

"And hats off to him again for that play," Smith said. "Hopefully, I will be able to see him again one day and give him a taste of something. He got me on that one. Hats off to him."

In Eberflus' mind, they already cleared up the problem with bootlegs and stopping the run to a degree.

He said this was the reason he decided to punt with just over three minutes remaining. He was certain they would get the ball back. He was right, but then Velus Jones Jr. muffed the punt.

"Yeah, I just thought we were gonna do it there," he said. "I thought we had cleaned up in the second half a little bit better and I thought we were on point in some degree. I felt pretty confident there, so that's our decision we made."

If they had corrected the problems, he can only hope it carries over into this week in Minneapolis against Cook.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven