The Chicago Bears have been known for the tradition of hard-hitting defense for decades, going back to the days of Dick Butkus and great defense of the Super Bowl winning 1985 team. However, in 2013 it seemed this tradition was lost. The Bears defense was uncharacteristically bad, to say the least; they ranked dead last against the run at 32nd and 30th overall. Fans watched game after game as opposing offenses ran wild down the field, virtually untouched by a defender due to missed tackles and missed assignments. It became evident in week 4 against the Detroit Lions that this was not the Bear defense of the past, when Reggie Bush ran for 139 total rushing yards and 1 touchdown. There was also the embarrassing 54-11 loss against the Philadelphia Eagles in week 16, when LeSean McCoy ran straight up the seams for a total of 133 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. This game could have won the NFC North Division title putting the Bears in the 2013 playoffs and avoiding yet another head to head battle with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. However, the Bears were not able to secure their spot for the post season and fell to a mediocre 8-8 record.
Of course, there are some factors that played a huge role in the downfall of the defense. The first being the retirement of longtime great linebacker Brian Urlacher. Urlacher, who was considered the quarterback of the defense, provided the leadership and wisdom of a veteran which would prove hard to replace. The only player who could fill Urlacher’s shoes was Lace Briggs who unfortunately, struggled with injuries for much of the season. Briggs was not the only star defender to fall victim to the injury bug, Charles Tillman, Henry Melton and Nate Collins also suffered significant injuries. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was forced to adjust the defensive schemes to make up for the loss of key players being sidelined. It was the first time in several seasons that the offense had to carry the team. Now, with the 2014 season swiftly approaching the Bears have worked to get their star players healthy and make adjustments to fill some of the holes on defense to avoid another poor season.
This process started with the release of a notable name in Julius Peppers. Peppers did not have a Pro Bowl caliber season, nor the big plays he had become known for. There was an initial shock to the release of Peppers and concern on who would take his place. However, his replacement in Jared Allen is no slouch. Allen, who previously played for the division rivals the Minnesota Vikings, is one of the most exciting defensive players in the league today. He has been a top defensive player for several years and has proved troublesome for opposing offensive linemen for his relentless pursuit of the quarterback. There was also the adding of Lamarr Houston formerly of the Oakland Raiders. Houston, is not as well known as Allen but, is a young talent eager to make his mark in Chicago as a prominent defensive player.
The Bears have struggled this preseason most notably in week 3, when trying to contain Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. Their biggest issue was allowing the quarterback to extend plays and the inability to stop the run. Both Allen and Houston have seen little action this preseason, which maybe why the Bears defense has looked slightly lethargic. Once the season starts, Allen and Houston are sure to be at full speed. They will add a spark to the Bears defense and reignite the fierce nature that they once were. Although, the last few weeks have not been the best, fans should expect improvement from the Monsters of the Midway. We hope that the changes made will get them back to their intense hard- hitting ways. After all this isn’t called the Black and Blue division for nothing.
Tags: Chicago Bears