Bears counting on return to form on defense
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP)
He took aim at his defense while talking about the team's health, saying: ''You've got to tackle a little bit better before you start talking about injuries and things like that.''
At least Monday night's 41-13 loss doesn't count.
Chicago has high expectations after making a run to the NFC championship game, and is counting on a defense that ranked among the best a year ago with Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs leading the way.
After a sharp performance against Buffalo in the preseason opener, the defense was a dud against New York - no takeaways, no sacks and no shortage of missed tackles.
''We didn't tackle well,'' defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said Thursday. ''Some of the things are angles. We kind of overshot the ball a little bit. Really, they're a good cut back team. The backs aren't overly fast backs, but they are cutback guys. So that was a big part of it. But we just didn't quite get that done.''
New York ran for 218 yards against a team that ranked ninth overall and second against the rush last season while going 11-5 and winning the NFC North.
''We've got to take that film and learn from it,'' said safety Major Wright, who got faked out badly on an 18-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.
He took a bad angle and whiffed on a lunge, crashing to the ground as Brandon Jacobs juked to his right on a run up the middle on his way to the end zone as New York took a 10-3 lead.
Late in the half, Tim Jennings got beat by Domenik Hixon on a lob to the corner of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown. And in the fourth quarter, the Giants' Da'Rel Scott broke off a 97-yard scoring run, bumping into his own lineman and regaining his balance before bursting through the line and racing for the score.
''When you go down and look at the breakdowns, it was our fault,'' defensive tackle Marcus Harrison said. ''It wasn't anything they did in particular that we couldn't stop. It was just like gap control and effort and assignment. You look for improvements each game. For us, that was a setback. This next game will be very important as far as things that we do.''
Peppers and Urlacher didn't play much on Monday, and Briggs and nose tackle Anthony Adams didn't at all. That's three Pro Bowl players and four starters, so some perspective is in order. Keep in mind, too, that the Bears know the system, and are not adjusting to a new coordinator. They've been running the Cover 2 defense for years and have their core players back.
They're just a little short-handed at the moment.
Briggs sat out with a bruised knee after playing in the preseason opener, and Adams has missed both games because of a calf injury. They will not play Saturday against Tennessee and could miss the final preseason game, which doesn't exactly help as they prepare for the opener against Atlanta on Sept. 11.
''It hurts every day that they're not out here,'' Smith said. ''But they have been around a while. They know what we expect. They know the defense. They're veteran players. But there's a reason why we practice. We would love to have those players out here as soon as we can. Hopefully before long we'll get them out. But we're a better defensive team with both of those players. I'm just banking on them being ready to go.''
He's also counting on more takeaways and more pressure. That hasn't been there from the first unit.
''The first group hasn't had the look yet, and as many as I would like to have right now,'' Marinelli said. ''But, it's just solid. I'm not going to jump over a fence and throw them bouquets right now. We got a lot of work to do and they're working on it. But it's still not good enough.''
Notes: Johnny Knox made it clear he's going to do all he can to regain the No. 1 receiver spot from Roy Williams. ''I know Roy,'' Knox said after practice. ''He's not going to make it easy for me, and I'm not going to make it easy for him.'' Receivers coach Darryl Drake said a day earlier that Williams is going to have to perform better to remain the No. 1 receiver. ... TE Kellen Davis missed practice because of back stiffness. So did DE Corey Wootton (knee), CB Mike Holmes and WR Sam Hurd (ankle), along with Briggs and Adams. Smith has also ruled out Wootton for Saturday.