LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears coach Matt Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles had promised the team’s anemic pass rush would improve from the defensive line's interior this season, then added defensive end Yannick Ngakoue for good measure.
The end result has been a pass rush with one sack in three games after a season when they had an NFL-low 20 sacks, and the Bears are looking for any way possible to pressure Russell Wilson on Sunday against the Denver Broncos when they try to end a 13-game losing streak.
“You know, it’s something we’ve got to do better,” Eberflus said.
The Bears defense is getting frustrated because they’re seeing effort without results. Giving up 41 points last week to Kansas City in a loss definitely didn’t suggest improvement.
“There’s not one time I’d say that we didn’t practice hard during the week,” defensive end DeMarcus Walker said. “You gotta show up on Sundays.”
Ngakoue has the only sack and a few other near misses against Tampa Bay when he couldn’t bring down Baker Mayfield.
“We have a lot of quarterback hits, a lot of quarterback hurries,” Ngakoue said. “We just have to finish and maximize on those opportunities at bringing the quarterback down.
“Just keep scratching and clawing. Rushing is not about just giving up. It’s about continuing to fight.”
Ngakoue thinks the sacks will come in bunches when they do come because he sees the rush as being close.
“We can have a game where we have more than five sacks,” he said. “It’s all about just keep working.”
Teams struggling at getting to the passer can blitz more, but the Bears have always blitzed sparingly under Eberflus, preferring instead to get seven players into coverage. According to Sportradar, they’ve blitzed a league-low 16% of the time.
“We’re going to continue sending four guys and playing some coverage,” Eberflus said. “We obviously got to send five some time, send six. But again, we just got to do a good job. We’ve gotten home some and we’ve missed some sacks in the pocket. We have to do a better job with that, making sure we do a good job of getting the guys down when we do have pressure. But again, that number has got to improve for sure.”
Eberflus has been calling the defenses the past two games and said this week he will continue to do it the rest of the season after the resignation of defensive coordinator Alan Williams.
“As a defense I just feel like we just believe in Coach ‘Flus,’” safety Jaquan Brisker said. “It’s just his plan and we just have to execute Coach ‘Flus’ plan.”
It couldn’t have helped when the defense lost its coordinator.
“We really didn’t flinch, all the distractions,” Brisker said. “We’re gonna have distractions. We’re the Chicago Bears. Everybody has something to say. So we just gotta execute Coach 'Flus’ plan.
“It’s about execution. We weren’t really distracted. I felt like we had a great week of energy.”
What couldn’t have helped is not getting their entire starting defense on a practice field together until a week and a half before the start of the regular season. They were missing players throughout offseason work, training camp and preseason.
The lack of pass rush pressure has resulted in greater issues than lack of sacks. With more time to pass, teams have converted 60% of third downs against the Bears defense. It’s the worst rate in the NFL.
They also haven’t been getting takeaways. Although they did get their first two interceptions of the season against Kansas City, both came after the Chiefs pulled starters and Blaine Gabbert was at quarterback.
“We had a lot of turnovers in practice and things like that,” Brisker said. “We just have to take it to the game.”
The one thing the Bears can take comfort in this week is the opponent’s defense also is struggling. Denver lost 70-20 to Miami last week.
“It’s about who wants it more,” Walker said. “That just goes down to, in life, who wants it more.”
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