LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Taking an admitted “glass half-full” look at Chicago’s recent struggles stopping the run, Bears coach Marc Trestman said Monday “there’s still time to get it done,” in that area if the defense finds a way to overcome inconsistency.
“I don’t know that I’ve been in quite this situation that we’re in here in the five years I was up north [in Canada],” Trestman said. “But I will say that there’s evidence if we do it right, we can get it done.”
Yet in the court of weekly statistics, the Bears haven’t provided enough proof to warrant Trestman’s confidence.
The Bears remained off balance for the majority of Sunday’s game because of St. Louis’ ability to run the ball virtually at will. The Rams racked up 258 yards on the ground, averaging 8.9 yards per attempt; a number that would have been higher had the team not downed the ball on for 1-yard losses on three consecutive snaps to end the game.
St. Louis ball carriers Benny Cunningham, Zac Stacy and Tavon Austin averaged 8.4, 7.3 and 65 yards respectively on 26 attempts, with each reeling off at least one run of 27 yards or more. The Bears gave up eight runs for gains of 10 yards or more to run up their grand total on the season to 48, including 10 attempts for gains of 25 yards or more.
“I’ve watched tape from practice where we fit the run exactly against the runs we’re going to see,” Trestman said. “Yesterday, I saw us fit the runs exactly the way we saw them in practice, and then I saw other times that we didn’t, and that’s the accountability side of it. We’ve got to do a better job. That starts with us, but also on our players to make sure they’re doing exactly what we’re asking them to do. We’ve got some young guys, some guys working at newer positions. But that’s everybody. All 11 guys have to do it. So yes there has been inconsistency in fitting the runs. They’re runs that we have practiced. They show up in games. We fit them properly. It’s a two-to-three-yard gain. We don’t spill it or we don’t fit it right, it becomes a bigger gain and we have not been able to do it on a consistent basis. We’re going to continue to work at it. We’re not going to give up on it. We’re going to continue to press the issue.”
But will that be enough? For most coaches, it’s more acceptable for a player to be flat-out beaten physically than it is for the player to bust an assignment. The Bears consider their issues to be more about improper fits than opponents blocking the defenders out of the gaps. It appears to be a combination of both.
“It’s just fitting the run right. That’s all it is,” safety Chris Conte said. “It’s a fixable thing.”
But the Bears haven’t given much of an indication to encourage any optimism about the issues getting corrected as the team moves into matchups against NFC opponents Minnesota on Sunday, followed by the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 9.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson produced his first 100-yard outing Sunday against Green Bay since a 140-yard outing on Nov. 3 at Dallas. When Peterson pops on the tape of Chicago’s performance against the Rams, he’ll see “that he can have a big day against us,” according to Bears cornerback Zack Bowman.
“They’re gonna go back and watch the Rams game,” Bowman said, adding that “obviously, they want to try to get him going.”
Interestingly, the Bears own a 5-4 record in the nine games they’ve allowed a 100-yard rusher. Believe it or not, if Chicago continues its current level of production or lack of against the run, the team still won’t finish among the three worst performances in that category in franchise history.
But that’s little consolation for a Bears team fighting to keep alive its postseason aspirations.
“We’re not in any different position in this division than we were a week ago,” Trestman said. “Our guys know that. Our guys I think are excited about the challenge. They’re willing to go back to work at it. We have to get better. There’s no other way to say it.”