Bears Defense Stands Alone Against the World

Gene Chamberlain

They're ganging up on the Chicago Bears defense.

A few weeks ago the defense only had to worry about carrying around their own sputtering offense.

After Eddy Pineiro's failure against the Rams from routine field goal distances, they also apparently have to carry special teams.

Normally teams with an offensive-minded coach, one whose experience came as an offensive coordinator, must worry about their defense collapsing. The Bears in the past had these problems with Marc Trestman.

Yet, this defense is shouldering the load for an offense ranked 30th, one which finished only 21st last year under coach and offensive trend setter Matt Nagy.

According to NFL Research, the Bears defense is on pace to allow the fewest points by a losing team since 2004 (Washington).

Somehow the defense must rise above all of this mess.

"Blinders and ear muffs and controllables," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said.

If that sounds familiar, it's the phrase Nagy gave the team to block out media and social media criticism. 

So apparently now it has to block out the effects of their own offense.

"We've got a job to do and that's go out and get the ball back," Pagano said. "You know, get a three-and-out, get a takeaway.

"That's just what it is. And so we always talk about just doing your job and it doesn't matter if we've got to play 50 plays or we've got to play 70 plays."

Against a Giants team in a six-game losing streak, with only two wins and with one of the worst defenses in the NFL, there's no reason the Bears defense should have to carry the load this week.

It would be difficult, anyway, considering they had trouble doing it against running back Saquon Barkley last year when they were actually winning games.

Here are the four key matchups in a game with little real meaning in the grand scheme to the Bears, but one their defense probably needs now simply to maintain sanity.

OLB Khalil Mack vs. RT Mike Remmers

Mack has had only one sack in six games while teams either run repeatedly or throw double- and triple-teams at him.  It sometimes looks like a pinball machine as he bounces from one blocker, to the next, to the next. With all that attention, someone else should take advantage but they rarely do. In the event Mack does get blocked one on one, Remmers is a career journeyman who has been cut and resigned by the Vikings three times, played for Denver, Tampa Bay, the Chargers, Carolina. Remmers is coming off a back injury and didn't play against the Jets, but the Giants had a bye week after that loss and Remmers has been practicing in full this week. Even when healthy, the Giants aren't exactly putting up a wall around Brown. He's been sacked 34 times, seventh most in the NFL. If the Bears move Mack to the other side, it's former Patriots tackle Nate Solder who has missed some practice time this week with a concussion.

CB Buster Skrine vs. WR Golden Tate

Skrine draws the assignment of stopping Bears nemesis, Tate, who always plagued them out of the slot in Detroit, and even with Seattle, and last year ended their season with the game-winning playoff touchdown catch. Skrine hasn't had a bad season, although Pro Football Focus says he has given up 64 percent on passes thrown against him. In fact, New York area fans who called him a walking penalty flag would be surprised to know he has one penalty against accepted and it was an offsides on an extra point and not a pass interference, holding or illegal contact. However, he did give up a 50-yard catch to Cooper Kupp to set up the Rams' first touchdown Sunday night.

Tate's numbers have been held down due to four missed games for a performance enhancing drug suspension. He has 74 ore more catches five straight seasons but only 33 receptions for 417 yards and three TDs this year. Tight end Evan Engram and fullback Rhett Ellison both are dealing with injuries, which hurts the inside passing game for Brown. Tate should have a key role here shouldering the load.

WR Allen Robinson vs. CB Janoris Jenkins

Even if he is the top Bears receiving threat, Robinson has to step up and show he can battle and win against some better cornerbacks. He lost the battle last week to former teammate Jalen Ramsey, making four catches for only 15 yards. Against the Eagles he had only a catch for 6 yards.

Jenkins is having a strong season, having matched a career high with four interceptions. His 11 passes defensed have him on a course to reach his most since 2016, when he made the Pro Bowl. Working against Jenkins here is his size. He's giving up four inches and 30 pounds to the 6-2, 220-pound Robinson. And if there is one area where Robinson has excelled it's maximizing his advantages against DBs.

WR Anthony Miller vs. CB Grant Haley

Miller is coming off a career high in receptions with six, but for only 54 yards. He also was responsible for an interception of Mitchell Trubisky last week. He has had an inconsistent season, but with the tight end position largely removed from the Bears offense, Mitchell Trubisky has to throw it to someone in the middle of the field and it's usually going to be Miller. Haley is in his second season, has played only 19 games with only two passes defensed and no interceptions. PFF has given him a 52.0 grade. This is not good. They say he allows 86 percent of the passes to be completed when he's targeted, which is even worse. Essentially, he's a slot corner Miller should be able to beat and has to beat.