Numbers Say Panic Over Bears Defensive Slide Is Premature
The disturbing part of Sunday's loss for Bears defensive players wasn't so much having their streak of outstanding performances snapped as much as it was getting dominated on the line of scrimmage.
The Bears had their streak of eight straight games allowing 17 points or less halted when the Raiders steamrolled them 24-21.
Efforts of this kind can lead to soul searching, if not panic. With this group of defenders and leaders, it's safe to say the panic wouldn't set it.
"It's the National Football League," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said on the team's WBBM Coaches' Show. "I think we all understand what we signed up for. We had a golden opportunity. We let one get away."
Statistics at the bye say the Bears are similar in many ways to last year's defense at this point in the season, if not the end product after 16 regular-season games.
The real question is where they'll take it now with a key injury to Akiem Hick staring at them. They went through an injury like this at a similar point in the season last year to Khalil Mack, but emerged in dominant style. They've already given one indication against Minnesota how they can handle an injury to Hicks. But they gave the exact opposite indication last week against the Raiders.
If they get starting defensive end Bilal Nichols back from a broken hand, it could go along way toward helping solve the problem of Hicks being out. Nichols is a starter and last year one of the surprise defensive finds of the year.
Coach Matt Nagy immediately after the loss to Oakland didn't seem too worried about the defense bouncing back, but wants to see the offense pick it up to support them if there a drop off because of Hicks' loss occurs.
"Then we lose him," Nagy told reporters after the loss. "I think just we've done some pretty good things as a defense the first four weeks stopping the run.
"You're always destined to have games like this. It's the NFL. You know, it happened, and so what I want to see happen is I want to see where when these times happen that we can do a little bit more offensively, right, to be able to help that defense out after they have four pretty good games."
Here is how this year's defense stacks up in major statistical categories to where they were after five games last season and where they were at the end of last year.
After 5 games, 2018
End of 2018
4th (19.2 ppg)
1st (17.7 ppg)
2nd (13.4 ppg)
10th (343.8 ypg)
Rushing yards allowed
4th (83.4 ypg)
Passing yards allowed
16th (260.4 ypg)
It's largely a wash, except for some pass coverage in terms of interception percentage. Yet the Bears haven't fallen off far in turnovers forced because they've recovered more fumbles than last year.
Two other areas where they dropped off since last year at season's end are passer rating against and third-down percentage.
They've allowed an 87.4 passer rating, 11th in the league, but led the league last year at 72.9. However, they were at 85.2 after five games last year, so aren't far from this now after five games.
Their third-down percentage is actually better than at this point last year and only 1.4 percent off the end of the year when they were fourth overall.