Bears Defense Still Striving For 'Perfect'

The Bears defense is embracing the challenge of winning out.

Chris Emma
December 03, 2019 - 5:50 pm
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- Through all the challenges faced this season by the Bears defense, one thing has remained the same.

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It's the standard that brought them to greatness.

Related: Return of Akiem Hicks would be a big boost for Bears

"It’s never going to be perfect," defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. "But they strive for that every single day."

The Bears defense has embraced a new leader in Pagano and accepted the coaching of a mostly remade staff, but that has only been part of its test in 2019. 

The defense has been without star defensive lineman Akiem Hicks for eight games, including the last seven due to an elbow injury. Starting linebacker Danny Trevathan, the group's emotional leader, has missed the last three games with an elbow injury. Playing the next man up has been a necessity on a number of occasions.

Meanwhile, the Bears have punted 67 times -- the second-most in the NFL behind the Jets -- which means the defense has often had little time to rest as the offense has sputtered.

Despite the difficulties, the Bears still rank fourth in scoring defense at 17.3 points per game -- ahead of their NFL-best 17.7 points-per-game mark of in 2018. Only the Patriots, 49ers and Bills rank ahead of the Bears. Meanwhile, Chicago's 319.7 yards per game allowed ranks seventh.

The defense has kept the Bears alive this season.

"We're stacked," linebacker Aaron Lynch said. "We've played some good-ass teams. It's really the talent we got on the defense. You got guys that are backups here that would be starters on other teams. 

"I don't think there's another team in the league like us where a guy goes down, the dude behind them goes down, you're not missing a rep. It's pretty gangster."

Coach Matt Nagy defined his defense's battle against adversity in simple terms.

"They've never let it affect them," Nagy said.

The Bears have the defense of a Super Bowl contender and the offense of a bottom feeder. Chicago is averaging 17.7 points and 281.8 yards per game, which both rank near the bottom of the league. It's why the Bears are 6-6 and hold bleak playoff hopes, trailing the Vikings (8-4) by two games for the final NFC wild-card spot.

The Bears own a 3% chance of making the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight. A win against the Cowboys on Thursday would lift those odds to 5%. 

If the Bears are to have any chance to reach the playoffs, they need their defense to continue carrying them to victories.

"You love this," star pass rusher Khalil Mack said. "If you play this game and you love this game, you can't wait to do the impossible in a sense. You can't wait to go out and prove yourself."

As the Bears sat at 8-4 looking to wrap up a playoff spot late in the 2018 season, their defense led the way with a dominant stretch, allowing 10.5 points per game in four victories that helped lift them to the NFC North crown.

Realistically, the Bears' path to the playoffs involves winning out and hoping a 10-6 record is good enough in a tough NFC. They understand that daunting task and realize the bleak odds working against them.

Much of this season has brought the Bears challenges, and this just happens to be the next one.

For a Bears defense always striving to be perfect, saving this season is something to embrace.

"They’re never, ever going to quit," Pagano said. "They’re going to fight until the bitter end -- regardless."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.