Still amazed at his team's defensive frenzy in Sunday's win, Bears coach Matt Nagy wondered aloud when he met with the media on Monday about when the last time the team had an interception from each level of the defense.
The Bears had this Sunday from defensive lineman Angelo Blackson, linebacker Roquan Smith and cornerback Jaylon Johnson picked off Joe Burrow on successive pass attempts.
It's not often a team gets an interception from a defensive lineman, a linebacker and a defensive back in the same game, if you count 3-4 edge rushers as linebackers instead of defensive ends.
The last time was on the road Oct. 10, 2010 when they used the 4-3 and defensive end Julius Peppers, linebacker Brian Urlacher and cornerback Charles "Peanut" Tillman did it against the Carolina Panthers in a 23-6 Bears win.
The odd thing about that game was the Bears' three picks off Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen were one less than their own quarterback threw in the game. Todd Collins, starting for injured Jay Cutler, threw four picks but the Bears still won handily.
Or maybe it wasn't so odd considering the history of Bears quarterback failure.
Regardless, Sunday's four forced turnovers in four possessions and three interceptions in three pass plays was the type of thing the Bears became accustomed to seeing in 2018 when Vic Fangio was defensive coordinator and they led the NFL in takeaways.
This dropped off with Chuck Pagano as coordinator the last two years so this is a nice indicator for the defense, although it's hardly a sign they've been restored to their previous level of dominance.
"That's the level we know we're capable of playing at," defensive end Bilal Nichols said Tuesday at Halas Hall. "That's why we were disappointed in ourselves the first game because we know that we could be a lights-out defense. We just knew we had to come back this week, last week in practice, get it together, clean some stuff up and go out there and fly around and have fun. We didn't do that in the first game. It was good to get back to that."
The Bears are No. 5 against the run, a strong sign considering they haven't had Eddie Goldman in the lineup yet. The led the NFL in 2018.
The stats that initially came out Sunday gave them four sacks but when Robert Quinn ran Joe Burrow out of bounds and received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he should have also been given a sack because the play went for no gain. The league is currently studying whether they should have given the sack to Quinn.
So with six sacks on the year they are looking ferocious up front again.
The positive coming out of this game was the creativeness Desai showed with Khalil Mack. He moved Mack alongside Quinn at times, and it resulted in one of Quinn's sacks. They also had Mack and Akiem Hicks stunt once and it resulted in a Mack sack when he took the inside and Hicks' rush took him outside.
For two years when Pagano was here, both Pagano and former outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino kept saying they had to put players in better positions to get sacks. Desai did it. They also had
Before getting too carried away with the success they had against Cincinnati, consider the three ways they're still lagging behind. They need to start to show improvement in these areas or the success will stall out, much the way it did in 2019 after they put on a dominant road performance and had five takeaways against Washington.
1. Third-Down Defense
They were solid at this throughout two Pagano seasons but at 52.1% conversions allowed, they are 29th in the league at stopping third down. They were fourth in 2018 (34.91%) and 11th last year (40.1), and when they were rolling early last year with a 5-1 start they were No. 1 in the league.
The reason for this is personnel-based. The two slot cornerbacks have struggled. Last week the Cincinnati Bengals picked on Duke Shelley. In the previous week, there were all sorts of communications errors and breakdowns when they tried using Marqui Christian there after Shelley had been with the first team throughout training camp and preseason. Until the nickel back situation is resolved, the nickel defense will struggle and the third-down conversion rate will remain high.
2. Deep Pass Coverage
The busted coverage for a 56-yard TD in Week 1, the 67-yarder when they failed to touch down Von Jefferson in Week 1 and last week when Kindle Vildor got beat in coverage by Ja'Marr Chase and Eddie Jackson whiffed on the tackle, crashing into Vildor, were the type of big plays for touchdowns the Bears can't afford. Giving up long passes will happen, but a defense has to smply prevent the TD, force a field goal try or make a red zone turnover.
The Bears have allowed three pass plays of 40 yards or more and only Kansas City's defense has allowed more.
3. Tackling in Bears Secondary
While they're allowing far too high a completion percentage at 69.6%, the Bears could get by with this if they simply tackled better in the secondary. According to Sportradar, official stat partner of the NFL, four of the five players in the Bears secondary have missed tackles in double figures percentage-wise. Eddie Jackson and Kindle Vildor are at 10% missed and Duke Shelley and Tashaun Gipson at 14.3%. The only player in the secondary not missing tackles in the double-digit percentage is Jaylon Johnson, who hasn't missed a tackle yet.
On the positive side, the Bears have allowed only five passes of 20 yards or longer, so if the tackling improves and the 40-yarders or longer vanish, the Bears could start closing down just about anything opposing offenses can throw their way.