Where have all the takeaways gone?
That’s frustrating from a player’s perspective. You grab your helmet, drop a couple of colorful words under your breath and get ready for another defensive series when the offense fails to execute.
Sound familiar? It should when looking at this Bears team that has lost four of its last five.
However, let’s not give Lovie Smith’s defense a pass just yet because it hasn’t exactly been lighting the league on fire as the season slips away.
Look at the opening drive last week in Minnesota or the inability to keep Adrian Peterson and the Vikings out of the end zone after Jay Cutler threw his first of two interceptions.
Have to start a series defending the end zone from inside the 10-yard line? Hey, you get paid every Tuesday to do a job, and part of it is getting tossed in adverse situations.
Get a stop, force a field goal and prevent your team from falling into a 14-0 hole on the road in a tough environment.
But the deeper issue is the lack of impact plays from this Bears defense. You know, the big plays that lead to positive field position for Cutler or even points when you take an interception back to the end zone.
Where have those gone? Where are the silly comparisons to the ’85 Bears defense that were floated after the Bears whipped up on the Titans and took the ball away at a frantic pace?
“We talk about turnover ratio and not winning it,” Smith said Monday at Halas Hall. “We haven’t gotten enough takeaways lately, and that trend has to change.”
That’s the story when it comes to this defense.
Under Smith, the Bears are 13-39 when they don’t win the turnover battle. That’s an eye-opening number. And it tells us how much this team leans on its defense to win.
That’s going to happen when you have an offense that has yet to find any sort of identity outside of a little pitch-and-catch between Cutler and Brandon Marshall.
That’s not a conducive plan for winning because turnovers seem to come in bunches. The Bears can punch the ball, try to rip it out and sit on routes all day, but the well does run dry at times.
With Aaron Rodgers and the Packers coming to town Sunday at Soldier Field, the Bears will have to lean on Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers.
The marquee names of this defense need to make those game-changing plays versus one of the league’s best quarterbacks and a team that suddenly has found a running game.
It won’t be easy, and there could be times when Cutler and the offense put the defense in an adverse situation. But for a team that talks about turnovers and consistently focuses on taking the ball away, the defense is needed more than ever.
Especially with this season hanging by a thread.
Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. You also can find his work at nationalfootballpost.com.