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Dominant much of the year, the Bears' defense displays flaws

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

By GENE CHAMBERLAIN

Associated Press

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) There are signs the Chicago Bears' defense is leaking, and it couldn't come at a worse time.

Whether it was stopping the run in the second half or giving up big plays in the passing game, the defense wasn't as dominant as in other games during Sunday's 30-27 loss in overtime to the New York Giants.

Coach Matt Nagy thinks of it as an anomaly, but it's an issue the Bears must fix fast with the powerful Los Angeles Rams coming to Chicago on Sunday night.

"No, it's not a concern," Nagy said Monday at Halas Hall. "We have a lot of confidence. Our guys have tons of belief in our system; I'm talking defensively, too. They have tons of belief in our system."

The system and players put the Bears (8-4) in the top five among defenses much of the season, but in Sunday's second half the Giants averaged 4.5 yards a run. Saquon Barkley finished with 125 yards, the most the Bears have given up to a running back this season.

"I thought for the most part overall we did a good job shutting down the run, except for a couple big plays," Nagy said. "And those `except for a couple big plays' can get you."

The most important play might have been Barkley's 22-yard run to set up a field goal before halftime, swinging momentum.

"Well, he is a good runner and you know he made some nice moves, he ran all over the field," Nagy said. "I felt like our guys know. Our guys are going to go back and watch the tape and say, `Man we could have been better there. We could have made some tackles and at least cut it to a 7- or 8-yard gain, right, not a 22-yard gain.'"

The Bears' defense also struggled in the second half to stop Detroit's rushing attack in the previous game, allowing 15 carries and 85 yards in a 23-16 victory.

"Just a little leakage," Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan said following Sunday's loss. "Nothing we can't fix. Just a little leakage.

"We've just got to make the plays when they come our way. We knew what type of offense we were facing, we've just got to make our plays. Our defense is way better than the way we were. We know it."

The Bears have more to worry about than their run defense going up against the Rams. Their chief concern the past few weeks has been the injured throwing shoulder of starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

Nagy said after Sunday's loss that Trubisky remains day to day, and has improved since he started throwing Friday in practice. He wouldn't commit Trubisky's return this week after two missed games.

"I can't say that for sure," Nagy said. "I hope he, is but I feel like the last several days, as I told you (Sunday) was, he's getting better and he's feeling better.

"And so I think it's only fair for today, tomorrow and the next couple of days to go by that we just keep seeing him throw and see how he feels, and then he tells us."

Nagy was encouraged by one improvement on offense: a better rushing attack. After going over 100 yards only once in the previous four games, the Bears ran for 118 yards against the Giants, including 76 by Jordan Howard.

However, Howard had only three second-half carries.

"Well, the second half, they had a little plan for him," Nagy said. And so, I would've loved to be able to call more runs, but they did a pretty good job getting into our backfield and stopping the run.

"And then before you know it, we got behind and in overtime we started off with a run and had a nice little run there for six or seven yards. But it's hard when it's second-and-14 after a run call on first-and-10."

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Updated December 3, 2018

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