The Chicago Bears defense this year is allowing 29.4 points per game this season, fourth worst in the league. Twice this year the Bears have given up 40 or more points to an opponent (40 to the Lions in Week 4, and 45 to the Redskins in Week 7) after not allowing 40-plus in any game the past three years. And against Washington, the club lost a game after the offense scored 40 or more points for the first time in the 95-year history of the organization.
These are historically bad results from an organization that has always prided itself on defensive dominance. For the veterans, including Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman, it's something to which they are completely unaccustomed.
"It's definitely frustrating, because this is something I've never been a part of — giving up that many points," Tillman said today. "It's foreign to me, so this is new for me and I definitely don't like it. It leaves a sour taste in your mouth."
Injuries have played a big part in the defensive decline and the loss of Lance Briggs, officially ruled out this week with a shoulder injury, won't help. Tillman, recovering from his own nagging knee injury, practiced in full today and is listed as probable. His presence will help against the Green Bay Packers this week, who are double-digit favorites.
"That's cool. Everybody's entitled to their own opinion, so it's fine. I'm OK with it," Tillman said of the large spread. "We obviously must have given them reason to think that, so until we start to make some plays and win games, then maybe we turn some heads. I don't know. But it doesn't bother me. I'm OK with what they say."
"I try not to get caught up in the media. You guys do a really good job of hyping up the games — Monday night this, Monday night that, Green Bay-Bears. It's a game. That's how I approach it. I treat all games the same."
Chicago's defense is allowing nearly 400 yards per game, which is unheard of in the Windy City. So the reality is that if the Bears don't find a way to limit Rodgers and Green Bay's fourth-ranked offense, this game could get out of hand by halftime. Tillman understands the consequences of another poor outing, which would put the Bears two games behind Green Bay in the NFC North.
"They're throwing the ball pretty good, they're running the ball pretty good," Tillman said. "So I definitely think that we as a defense, who have been struggling, I definitely think that this is a good game for us to showcase what we were focusing on with these two weeks off, and that was just really on us, focusing on the fundamentals of what we do.
"Coaches can only take so much blame, at some point in time some of that blame has to go on the players and I take full responsibility for my group not playing well. We haven't been playing well, we haven't been making plays that we were supposed to make, not taking advantage of the opportunities that have been given to us."
If they don't take advantage of those opportunities on Monday Night Football, Tillman will once again walk away frustrated as his team, which started 3-0 this year, drops to .500 on the season.
"I think the bye week came at a perfect time, because it gave our defense and our coaches enough time to sit back and evaluate us," said Tillman. "It's not about the opponent. It's about us — what can we do, what can I do to make myself better to help this team?"
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.