Has the Cover-2 D Run Its Course?

The Chicago Bears can't stop anybody in the pass game these days, and it's beginning to turn into a chicken-or-the-egg scenario. Are the players not executing the scheme properly, or is the scheme not putting players in position to make plays? Get the Inside Slant from the NFL experts at Scout.com.

Head coach Lovie Smith says the Bears' maligned defense will not change the way it does business, even though it's beginning to sound as if some players are questioning the wisdom of a plan that has contributed to a No. 30 ranking in passing yards allowed.

"No players are questioning our scheme, and we're not going to change up the scheme," Smith said. "They're a football player. That's what we're going to play. They know that. They all have confidence in the scheme. You're disappointed when you don't play well, but none of our players are questioning our scheme."

Smith said the players need to perform better.

The combination of soft coverage and a feeble pass rush has dropped the Bears defense to 17th in total yards allowed per game and tied for 15th in points allowed – even though they're No. 4 in run defense, allowing just 74.9 yards per game.

"I've heard a lot about switching up schemes and different things like that," Smith said. "Our scheme is good. We have to execute better. It's as simple as that. We've had success with this defense, and we're not going to change up. But we tweak our defense each week, and it's not like we play the same call each play. We do it all, but you still have to execute."

The Bears remained near the bottom of the league in passing yards allowed after getting picked apart by Titans' 35-year-old journeyman quarterback Kerry Collins, who didn't appear the least bit distracted by the pass rush. In the past four games, the Bears have a total of five sacks. The Dolphins' Joey Porter has 5.5 in that time.

Bears defensive linemen insist quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball so quickly they don't have time to get to them.

"They were getting rid of the ball fast," said defensive end Alex Brown, who leads the team with just three sacks, none in the last four games and only one in the last seven games. "But everybody does that. They take three steps and throw the ball."

Defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who has just two sacks this year, is even more adamant than Brown about opposing quarterbacks getting rid of the ball after short, three-step drops – or immediately from the shotgun.

"How long was he in the pocket?" Harris said of Collins after Sunday's loss. "How long did he hold the ball? It has nothing to do with pressure. We're not Superman. If he drops back and he's patting the ball like that, then you talk to us about pressure."

Harris is about half right. Collins threw 14 passes from shotgun formation, but hardly any were launched immediately. He had nine three-step drops, and 16 passes were thrown after five- or seven-step drops. Collins' TD pass to tight end Bo Scaife was his third option on that play, and he had at least a couple of other completions that went to his third read.


DE Alex Brown
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

"They're not three-step dropping every time," Smith said. "They are throwing it quick sometimes, but this [was] a typical game. You have some three-step drops, you have some play-action, and you'll have some regular drop-back passes. Sometimes the defensive line will have time to get there, sometimes they won't. But it's not just the defensive line, it's not just the linebackers, and it's not just the secondary. It's a combination of all."

But the coach doesn't plan any radical changes.

"You go through spells like this sometimes where teams can pass the ball a little bit more on you," he said. "You go through spells where teams will be able to run the football a little bit more than you'd like. But you just stay the course, and things will be OK."

When it comes to pass defense, the Bears have a long way to go before they get to "OK."

NOTES & QUOTES
The Bears defense won the battle, shutting down the Tennessee run game (29 yards on 20 carries), which ranked third in the league, but it lost the war, allowing 289 passing yards to Collins in a 21-14 loss. The Bears came in ranked 30th in passing yards allowed, and Collins had his best passing day of the season by far against them.

"We gave up 20 yards [rushing]. That's decent, right?" LB Brian Urlacher said. "But it doesn't matter. If we don't win, it doesn't matter. Whenever you lose, you don't get production the way you want. You can play defense as good as you want, but it doesn't matter if you lose. We've got to get some more takeaways and some more sacks."

The Bears came into the game leading the NFL with 19 takeaways but got only one against the Titans. They came in ranked 28th in sack percentage and got to Collins just once in 41 attempts. …

Three-time Pro Bowl LB Lance Briggs said last week that he considered the Bears the best team in the NFL, even though the Titans were and remain undefeated.

Sunday's 21-14 Bears loss didn't change his mind.

"There's not a team in the world that would change my mind about this team right here that I line up with every week," said Briggs, who was credited with a game-high 13 tackles. "There's not a doubt in my mind. Like I said, when we want to, we'll be there. I think we got a good glimpse of our defense playing a little bit better [Sunday]. It was cause for us to do so and we did, even though we didn't finish." ...

With the Packers looming this weekend, Smith was asked if he could rationalize Sunday's loss to an AFC team.

"A loss is a loss," Smith said. "It's disappointing. In the [big] picture of things, if you have to have a loss, an ideal loss, if there is one, is an AFC game on the road. A home game – it doesn't matter who it is – you have to be able to defend your home turf. It was a big loss for us."

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