As a believer in the “Defense wins championships” mantra, I took great joy watching the Bears “D” rise up and beat down the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. And what I loved about it most was that it came from everywhere.
The secondary has been a primary concern since the early stages of the offseason. But that group has too much talent (and, presumably, too much pride) to let what happened in Los Angeles repeat itself on consecutive weeks. And at Soldier Field? For the home opener? Nah, that wasn’t happening.
Eddie Jackson and the Turning Point
This was the first of four consecutive Bears defensive possessions that finished with a turnover. And as far as I’m concerned, this was the turning point moment of that game:
Keeping the Bengals out of the end zone and turning it into three points put the Bears in the right direction to score a win. From an individual standpoint, there’s gotta be nothing like channeling the Peanut Punch to bust Jackson out of a defensive slump.
That’s now eight forced fumbles for Jackson in five years. Neat little trick that Peanut Punch has turned out to be. May its legacy live on forever, preferably in Canton. As for Jackson, he is still looking for his first interception since the end of the 2019 season. But in the meantime, his teammates have him covered.
Jaylon Johnson Gets His First
The Bears defense is what it is because of star power. Big-time players making big plays in major moments is what separates folks in defensive power rankings. And in this era of football, your cornerbacks need to be stars who can lock down pass catchers on the outside.
So, shout out to the NFL’s second-highest-graded cornerback:
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) September 19, 2021
You couldn’t ask for better coverage from Jaylon Johnson. I’m #NotAScout, but I can tell you this is the type of coverage coaches should be showing developing players. Now, you can’t teach the type of athleticism that allows Johnson to flick his hips and square up to get in a position for the pick. But watching how Johnson’s coverage mechanics keeps is man in front of him, which allows him to read the receivers route while simultaneously reading Joe Burrow’s eyes is perfect.
The 5-6 seconds it took that play to develop and result as a favorable outcome for the Bears is a testament to sound fundamentals and film study. It’s also reason enough for teams to not target Johnson. But you do you, opposing quarterbacks…
Roquan Does It All
With one side getting shut down because of Jaylon’s Island, I hope teams don’t think they can just throw it over the middle, especially with Roquan Smith on the field.
No, wait, I actually do hope that is the case, because then this will happen:
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) September 19, 2021
No. 58 had a bonkers stat line on Sunday:
⇒ 5 solo tackles (8 total)
⇒ 1 tackle-for-loss
⇒ 1 pass defended
⇒ 1 quarterback hit
⇒ 1 sack
And, of course, the pick-six.
There is a reason we’ve been nudging GM Ryan Pace to get an extension to Smith’s locker in an expeditious manner. Because so long as Smith keeps balling like this, the cost of doing business will continue to skyrocket.
It’s a Splash Party
My favorite interception of the day is best captured in this photoset shared by the Bears:
Don’t get me wrong. Star-power is awesome. And it is what was fueling Sunday’s win. But Angelo Blackson’s first career interception encapsulates what this Bears defense is all about when it is performing at the peak of its powers. It boils down to this — any one player, at any given time, can be a playmaker. Whether you’re a corner on the boundary, safety in the deep middle, linebacker ranging all over the place, or lineman in the trenches, you can make a game-changing play if you know your role and thrive in it.
Dating back to the Vic Fangio years, the Bears define “splash” plays as ones which result in a sack, quarterback hit, tackle-for-loss, interception, pass defended, forced fumble, or fumble recovery.
After managing just six splash plays in Week 1, the Bears had 32 such occurrences against the Bengals on Sunday. The Bengals ran 54 offensive plays. I’m no mathemagician, but that’s a whole lotta splashy splashy.
And to really drive it home, they had 11 different players contribute to the splash party. So Bilal Nichols (1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB Hit), Akiem Hicks (2 QB Hits), Kindle Vildor (1 PD), Robert Quinn (1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QB Hit), Alec Ogletree (1 PD, 1 QB Hit), Khalil Mack (1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB Hit), Tashaun Gipson (fumble recovery), and Jeremiah Attaochu (1 QB Hit) can join the rest of their teammates in taking a bow.
That “D” you know is back.
Well, at least for one week.