Lack of pass rush, poor tackling weighing down the Chicago Bears defense

Statistical analysis of the Chicago Bears defense through four weeks of the regular season, focusing on the team's struggles in both tackling and pass rush, using Football Outsiders metrics.

The Chicago Bears are coming off their best defensive performance of the season. In Week 4, the defense held the Detroit Lions to just two field goals and 263 total yards. 

It was an especially impressive performance considering NT Eddie Goldman and ILB Danny Trevathan were shelved due to injury. The secondary created two turnovers, while the Lions gained just 66 total rushing yards. 

Yet, despite the strong showing at Soldier Field, Chicago's defense is lacking in two critical areas.

The first is pass rush. According to Football Outsiders (FO), the Bears have just 10 total QB pressures on the season, which is tied with the Cleveland Browns for the fourth fewest in the NFL. Chicago's 9.8 percent pressure rate is 27th in the league. 

Sam Acho leads the team with 3.0 pressures, while six others have 1.0 pressure apiece (Cornelius Washington, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston, Akiem Hicks, Jonathan Bullard). The fact that Acho, who didn't have a single sack last year, is the team's most consistent pass rusher puts into perspective the pass-rush struggles. 

Willie Young signed a two-year extension in training camp and the Bears traded up to select Leonard Floyd 9th overall in this year's draft, yet those two have combined for just 2.0 pressures and 2.0 sacks. With Houston on IR and Pernell McPhee on PUP, the only viable edge rushers on the roster are Young and Floyd, and neither is having any success collapsing the pocket. 

The Bears have just 6.0 sacks as a team, which is tied for 24th in the NFL. It's hard to foresee significant improvement from the defense this season unless Chicago's pass rushers start winning the one-on-one battles. 

The second area of weakness is tackling. Per FO, the Bears have missed 41 tackles this year, second most in the league. The club's 37 plays that include a broken tackle leads the league, as does their percentage of plays with a broken tackle (14.9 percent). 

The team leader in missed tackle is S Harold Jones-Quartey, with defenders breaking 25 percent of his tackle attempts. Jones-Quartey's 6 missed tackles are second most in the NFL.

Second on the team is CB Tracy Porter (5), followed by ILB Jerrell Freeman (4). 

Think about that, the Bears defense have missed at least one tackle on nearly 15 percent of the snaps this season, while they are creating pressure on just 9.8 percent of the snaps. That's a recipe for disaster and two of the many reasons the club is 1-3. 

Amazingly, Chicago's pass defense ranks 8th in the NFL, giving up just 210 yards per contest. Credit goes to the club's secondary, including Tracy Porter, who has consistently held opponent's top receivers in check, as well as youngsters Deiondre Hall, Bryce Callahan and Jacoby Glenn. 

Unfortunately for the Bears, that passing defense ranking will plummet if the pass rush and back-end tackling fail to improve. 

Through four games the defense has faced a first-year starter in Brock Osweiler, two rookie quarterbacks in Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz, and Matthew Stafford, who was horrible on Sunday. The talent level of opposing quarterbacks will soon increase dramatically, beginning this week with Colts Pro Bowl passer Andrew Luck. 

Following Luck, Chicago's defense will square off against Blake Bortles, Aaron Rodgers, Sam Bradford (who has been excellent this season), Jameis Winston and Eli Manning. Each of those signal callers has the capacity to carve up the Bears defense if the pass rush stays dormant.

Similarly, the 24th-ranked run defense is unlikely to improve if the tackling doesn't improve. 

Chicago's defense has played better than some of their numbers indicate -- the poor outing against the Cowboys in Week 3 has skewed a lot of the overall stats -- yet the defense still ranks 10th in yards allowed per game. With no pass rush and inconsistent tackling, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has still cobbled together a Top 10 NFL defense. 

Imagine how good the Bears defense can become if they improve the pass rush and tackling. 


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