The fault of Sunday's 20-17 loss to the Detroit Lions does not fall on the shoulders of the Chicago Bears defense.
Despite numerous injuries on the defensive side of the ball - which included losing NT Eddie Goldman (ankle) and CB Tracy Porter (illness) during the game - Chicago's defense held the Lions to just 323 total yards. QB Matthew Stafford threw for just 223 yards and was intercepted twice, the second of which was returned for a touchdown.
Stafford was sacked three times and the Lions' ground attack averaged just 4.1 yards per carry. It was a strong showing from defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's unit, who did everything they could to overcome a stagnant Bears offense and keep the game within reach.
I sat down in the film room to analyze Chicago's defensive performance from Week 14. Here's what I found.
-3rd and 2: OLB Pernell McPhee uses a rip move to power his way around the corner, forcing RT Riley Reiff to grab hold and earn the holding call. On the opposite edge, OLB Leonard Floyd rushes up the inside shoulder of LT Taylor Decker, then quickly shifts his weight to the outside and sheds the block. Decker has to reach out and grab Floyd, which earns him a holding penalty as well. Stafford scrambles around the pocket until DE Akiem Hicks takes him down for the sack.
-DL Jonathan Bullard was inserted during the second drive. On one of his first snaps, both he and Floyd work their way down the line versus a Lions sweep, stretching the play out wide and forcing RB Dwayne Washington to cut back inside, where he's swallowed up by Hicks.
-On the next snap, Bullard crosses the face of the left guard at the snap and penetrates into the backfield, helping to again disrupt the run play. Bullard didn't have an outstanding game but it appears his benching last week, at the very least, woke him up.
-2nd and 20: Draw play to Washington. Floyd crosses the face of Decker and anchors inside, using arm extension to maintain space. Washington cuts outside and Floyd is able to chuck Decker inside before bursting outside for the tackle. Floyd used two consecutive swim moves to change directions twice in less than two seconds and finish the play.
-On the following snap, Floyd lines up on the opposite side of the field. It's another Lions draw play up the middle. Floyd shoots inside, closing ground in a heartbeat, and meets the ball carrier after a two-yard gain. Help comes immediately from LB Nick Kwiatkoski, so Floyd takes the opportunity to try and strip the ball. He's unable to force the turnover but his speed to the inside forces the Lions to punt.
-Throughout this game, Floyd showed off his elite inside pass-rush move. His change-of-direction ability is off the charts, which forces opposing blockers to respect the inside move. This keeps them off balance and opens up opportunities for successful speed rushes around the edge. The kid's athleticism is special.
-McPhee is double-teamed at the snap but powers through the LT and LG. This forces Decker to again reach out and grab him, which earns him another holding penalty. Against the Lions, McPhee played like he did during the first half of last season, using his brute strength to manhandle Lions blockers. It took nearly an entire season but McPhee may finally be rounding into form.
-3rd and 16: Bears only rush three, yet Floyd is able to fly around the left edge and force Stafford to scramble right, where there's a clear path due to OLB Willie Young being put on his face. On the back end, S Harold Jones-Quartey gets caught looking in the backfield and WR Marvin Jones is able to get behind him on the deep post. Stafford launches the deep ball to Jones, who beats Jones-Quartey for a 48-yard reception.
-The Lions had no answer for Hicks in the run game. Throughout Sunday's contest, but particularly in the first half, Hicks was tossing blockers around and stuffing run lanes with ease. With 7.0 sacks on the season to boot, Hicks has clearly earned the first Pro Bowl berth of his career.
-3rd and 3 in the red zone: Quick pass to WR Golden Tate on a 3-yard out route. CB Bryce Callahan reads the route and makes a diving play, knocking the pass away and forcing the Lions to kick a field goal. Great individual effort by Callahan to shut down the Detroit drive.
-Cross stunts by the defensive linemen were very effective in this game. The first example: Bullard clears out the LG and LT, allowing Floyd to swing inside untouched and force an early throw.
-3rd and 10: Fangio calls a dual blitz, bringing both the nickelback and the inside linebacker. This puts S Harold Jones-Quartey in man coverage on WR Anquan Boldin, who runs a 5-yard out route. Jones-Quartey is late to react and Boldin creates easy separation, making the easy grab for a 1st down.
-A few plays later, Jones-Quartey is again manned up on Boldin, who runs a flag route to the front pylon. HJQ is running right behind Boldin but just falls down as the receiver makes his break. His feet didn't get tripped up in any way but Jones-Quartey lands on his face, leaving Boldin wide open for the touchdown. It was the last defensive snap HJQ played in the game.
-Cross stunt example No. 2: From the Wide 9 spot, Floyd crashes inside and chucks the LG, trying to clear room for Bullard to swing outside. Yet Floyd's chuck is so forceful, it creates a path to the QB. He immediately crashes upfield on Stafford and bats down the pass attempt.
-2nd and 5: Washington takes the handoff heading B gap right. Floyd uses a quick head fake on the tight end before cutting inside, leaving the TE with a handful of air. Floyd's penetration forces Washington to cut back inside, yet he doesn't see Kwiatkoski coming. The rookie linebacker delivers a powerful blow to the ball carrier, dropping Washington for no gain.
-3rd and 5: Floyd lines up behind the line of scrimmage and is used as a spy on the quarterback. As a result, Stafford has all day to throw and finds an open receiver on a slant route for the first down. CB Deiondre Hall, who was inserted after Tracy Porter left the game with an illness, was beat badly on the slant.
-A few plays later, Hall is again beat on slant for a first down. Due to a high ankle sprain, this was Hall's first game back since Week 4. He was clearly rusty and showed very little anticipation in man coverage.
-ILB John Timu had little impact on defense. He was too easily blocked against the run, time and again failing to fight off blockers. His struggles against the run are somewhat surprising, as that was his biggest area of strength last season.
-Alternatively, Kwiatkoski had a very strong outing, showing good field awareness and downhill power. He's not an extreme athlete but Kwiatkoski is an intelligent, hard-nosed linebacker who packs some pop. He appears to be a keeper.
-Lions run an end-around. Floyd is not fooled and keeps contain, forcing the ball carrier back inside, where Kwaitkoski is waiting to finish him off. Here again is another glimpse at the future of Chicago's defense.
-Detroit's run game picked up after NT Eddie Goldman left with an ankle injury. DE Cornelius Washington, in particular, struggled to two-gap at the point of attack and was too easily pushed around against the run.
-Cross stunt example No. 3: Bullard crashes outside and Floyd swings inside. Floyd's pressure forces Stafford to scramble outside, right to where Bullard is rushing. All Bullard has to do is close and finish but he instead slows up, which allows Stafford to throw the ball away.
-Cross stunt example No. 4 (red zone): Floyd lines up at Rover, just off the inside hip of Washington. The two defenders cross at the snap and Floyd crashes the pocket, forcing a quick throw by Stafford. Off the left side, Tate runs a slant to the back of the end zone. Callahan reads the pass and undercuts the receiver, tipping the ball into the air. DB Demontre Hurst dives underneath the ball for the interception. The cross stunt forced Stafford to throw a half second early, which allowed Callahan to make an outstanding diving play on the ball.
-2nd and 15: Bubble screen. CB Cre'Von LeBlanc reads the play and crashes forward, eluding a block attempt to cross the lines of scrimmage. He arrives at the receiver at the same time as the ball, forcing the incompletion.
-On the next snap, LeBlanc is manned up on Boldin out of the slot. Boldin runs a 7-yard out route and Stafford fires the pass his way. LeBlanc undercuts the route, intercepts the pass and returns it for a touchdown. Two outstanding individual efforts on back-to-back snaps by LeBlanc, the second of which resulted in the go-ahead score.
-2nd and 12: Quick pass to Boldin underneath. S Deon Bush closes for the tackle but buries his head and dives right past Boldin, who turns upfield for a 28-yard gain. This was a crucial missed tackle by Bush, resulting in Lions ball at the Chicago 21-yard line.
-The pass interference call on Callahan came on a seam route to Jones, who used a double move to get Callahan off balance. Callahan clearly grabbed Jones by the jersey, which gave the Lions 1st-and-goal from the 7-yard line.
-2nd and 7: Stafford drops back to pass. Hicks and DE Mitch Unrein cannot get pressure up the middle. Unrein decides to swing outside, while Hicks spins in the opposite direction, leaving a gaping hole through the middle of the defensive line. The Bears have good coverage in the end zone, so Stafford scrambles to the area vacated by Hicks and Unrein. Stafford somehow outraces Floyd to the goal line, where Timu is waiting. Yet Timu hesitates and then makes a poor diving effort to tackle Stafford, who stumbles easily into the end zone for the game-winning score.