The Chicago Bears defense hasn’t given us to smile about the last two years. So I made it a point to share their successes from the team’s win against the Washington Commanders on Thursday Night Football by highlighting the defensive line’s stellar play. Unfortunately, Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus is threatening to revert to old ways. And if he does, I think it’ll be a major mistake.
The following tweet (h/t CHGO’s Nicholas Moreano) rubbed me the wrong way, as it goes against what I believe to be progressive thinking in terms of building (and deploying) a modern NFL defense:
The last thing the Bears need to do is deploy basic coverage schemes. For starters, coverages don’t get more basic than what Chicago is already running. The Bears essentially run a Tampa 2 scheme in which the defense hopes to hassle the quarterback with four pass-rushers while the seven defenders on the back end hope to create a turnover on a mistake that comes as a result of pressure generated by the defensive line. And if a QB gets it off, the idea of seven defenders funneling toward a ball carrier makes for the fallback plan.
But there are problems with Matt Eberflus thinking he can run more basic coverages just because Justin Jefferson won’t play.
Matt Ebeflus’s new plan is risky and could backfire spectacularly
Firstly, Jordan Addison is already proving to be a solid draft pick with loads of potential. The rookie wide receiver has 19 receptions for 249 yards and three touchdowns in five games. That puts him on a 65-catch, 847-yard, 10-touchdown rookie year. Not too shabby. And those numbers would look even better if not for the Week 4 clunker against Carolina (1 target, 0 catches while playing a season-low 28 snaps).
Secondly, giving quarterback Kirk Cousins a basic defense to analyze is asking for trouble. Cousins is no one’s favorite quarterback. But I’ll give the guy credit for taking what defenses give him. Cousins is completing 67.2 percent of his passes, has thrown three times as many touchdowns (13) as he has interceptions (4) this season, and has already put up 1,498 passing yards. In other words, it could be a long day at the office if the Bears make it easy for Cousins to process what the defense is throwing at him.
Don’t believe me? Fine. That’s your prerogative. But at least check out the numbers before you disagree:
Seriously. All signs point to trouble if you allow Kirk Cousins to simply pick you apart in a basic defense.
And finally, reverting to basic coverages would fly in the face of what the Bears did against the Commanders in Week 5 — which was arguably their best defensive showing of the Matt Eberflus era. In an appearance on 670 The Score’s Bernstein and Holmes Show, safety Jaquan Brisker credited the Bears’ newfound blitz packages for the team’s defensive success on Thursday Night Football:
“We really haven’t shown on film that we blitz a lot,” Brisker said. “Just different looks, different blitzes. Sometimes we’re going to come, sometimes we’re not. The rush, they did well working together, four equals one. That was really huge. Going forward, just the way we play aggressive like that and balance with the way we can blitz and also play straight zone, that’s good too.”
With that being said, why would Eberflus want to go away from blitz packages? If anything, Eberflus should be wanting to deploy more of them against the Vikings. Especially with Justin Jefferson out of the lineup.
Matt Eberflus shouldn’t go back to basics
This is probably where the Senior Defensive Assistant who Matt Eberflus wants to hire could be helpful. Because it doesn’t make sense to take the foot off the gas (1) one week after seeing how well it worked against Sam Howell and (2) against a Vikings offense without its best playmaker. We saw what Jordan Love, Baker Mayfield, Patrick Mahomes, and Russell Wilson did to a basic-looking defense. And while I can speak only for myself, I don’t think I’m going out on a ledge suggesting that Bears fans don’t want to see that version of the Matt Eberflus defense again.
Speed up Kirk Cousins’ processor and see if you can’t force a mistake. Not having Jefferson as a safety blanket should be reason enough for Eberflus to take more risks. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dialing up the Madden “Engage Eight” play on every snap. But there could be a quality payoff for bringing some heat. We literally saw how it could work last Thursday. So … why run away from it? I understand Matt Eberflus has a lot on his plate as a head coach who calls defensive plays. But I hope he re-thinks a strategy in which he goes back to basics.