Chicago Bears’ torrid defense shows no signs of cooling off
The general consensus is that the Bears’ defense cannot possibly continue the torrid pace that it’s set in the early going, but there was no slowdown in Sunday’s 48-10 thrashing of the Buccaneers.
The Bears added four more sacks to their league-leading total of 14, and their three interceptions gave them eight for the season, matching their 16-game total in each of the previous three seasons. The interceptions came from S Eddie Jackson, which was his team-best second, OLB Aaron Lynch and ILB Danny Trevathan.
The high-flying Tampa passing game came in averaging 400.7 passing yards per game but managed just 251 at Soldier Field. The Bucs came in averaging 473.3 total yards per game but were held to 311 by the Bears.
“You get better or you get worse,” Trevathan said. “In this situation, we’re getting better. There’s no complacency with this defense. We’re a good defense; we know that. No one is going to come in here and put on a show on our field.”
OLB Khalil Mack who came in tied for the NFL lead with four sacks, added a fifth. He became the first NFL player to force a fumble in each of the first four games of a season and the first player since Robert Mathis in 2005 to have a sack and a forced fumble in four straight games.
“We’re getting better every week,” Mack said of a defense that has allowed fewer points in each week, starting with 24 in the season-opening loss to the Packers, 17 against the Seahawks and 14 against the Cardinals in Week Three. “It’s not just about me. You see the guys on the back end making plays, and that’s what you want to see. It’s a good feeling, especially going into the bye.”
Surviving and thriving
The first NFL start for undrafted rookie CB Kevin Toliver came Sunday against the Bucs, the NFL’s No. 1 passing offense, and he more than survived it.
Matched up frequently with Tampa’s 6-foot-5, 231-pound WR Mike Evans, the 6-foot-2, 192-pound Toliver helped hold the perennial Pro Bowler to just 59 receiving yards, less than half his 123.3-yard average.
“He’s a good player,” Toliver said. “I respect him a lot. On the field we were talking back and forth, I was telling him that I respect him; he told me just keep working. He had a couple catches on me, but I just had to still go out there and compete.”
The Bucs behind backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick came in to Soldier Filed having thrown for 1,202 yards, the second most in NFL history for the first three games of a season. But the Bears sent Fitzpatrick to the bench after a lackluster first half. Jameis Winston returned to his customary No. 1 spot after serving a three-game suspension to begin the season. But he didn’t fare much better, tossing two of the Bucs’ three interceptions.
“Yeah, they didn’t get nothing,” Toliver said. “We just executed the plan that coach Vic (Fangio) had for us, and we just went out there and did what we had to do.”
Toliver got his first start because CBs Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper were inactive with hamstring injuries. That also meant more playing time for nickel CB Bryce Callahan who took Amukamara’s spot in the base defense across from Kyle Fuller. In nickel situations, Callahan moved back into his normal position covering the slot receiver, while Toliver played one of the outside CB spots.
Bellamy takes advantage
In addition to the two injured cornerbacks, WR Anthony Miller (shoulder) was inactive, which created more playing time in the slot for backup WR Josh Bellamy, who responded with a 20-yard TD catch.
The Bears’ other inactives were OLBs Kylie Fitts and Isaiah Irving, OL Rashaad Coward and DT Nick Williams. Fitts and Coward have not been active yet this season, while Irving and Williams were inactive for the third straight week.
The Bucs’ inactives were QB Ryan Griffin, starting S Jordan Whitehead (shoulder/hamstring), RB Shaun Wilson, DE Noah Spence, OLs Alex Cappa and Mike Liedtke and starting DT Beau Allen (foot).