Commentary

No need to get defensive

One series cost Bears' defense, which regained its stingy ways against the Packers

Updated: January 3, 2011, 2:22 AM ET
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Lovie Smith said he was confident his defense was going to "get it back" after a subpar performance last week. So did Anthony Adams, Lance Briggs and others.

But after a solid showing in the Bears' 10-3 loss to Green Bay Sunday, they were collectively offended by the suggestion that there was anything with which to be concerned.

"Did we lose it?" Smith asked.

"I don't think there was anything to get back," Brian Urlacher said.

Their defensiveness, if you will, feels like a good sign heading into the postseason as they rediscovered their stubbornness on and off the field with -- if not a flat-out dominant performance against the Packers -- then certainly a return to what we have come to expect.

[+] EnlargeTommie Harris
AP Photo/Morry GashThe Bears' Tommie Harris came up with a big sack of Aaron Rodgers on third-and-goal, forcing a Mason Crosby field goal in the third quarter.

After giving up 34 points and almost 400 yards in a win over the New York Jets last week, the Bears' defense rebounded in a game in which the Packers penetrated the Bears' 40-yard line just twice. One time came on a third-quarter drive that began on the Bears' 44-yard line -- following a 41-yard punt return by Tramon Williams -- and included a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line before the Packers had to settle for a 23-yard field goal by Mason Crosby.

The other was on the Packers' lone scoring drive, the dagger coming against Bears cornerback Zack Bowman on a 46-yard strike from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings to the Bears' 1-yard line. Rodgers found Donald Lee for the lone touchdown of the game on the next play.

"For the most part, we were there," Bears defensive end Israel Idonije said. "One series is what cost us ... just one series."

The Packers' beleaguered ground game remained harmless while the Bears limited the usually potent Rodgers to an 89.7 quarterback rating on 19-of-28 passing, one touchdown and an interception. Green Bay converted on just 2 of 11 third-down opportunities.

"Our mission today was to outplay the opposing team's defense and for the most part, we were somewhat evenly matched," said Charles Tillman, whose diving interception in the third quarter was Rodgers' first pick in seven games.

Unfortunately for the Bears, Tillman's 42-yard return to the Packers' 15-yard line went for naught as Green Bay safety Charlie Peprah returned the favor, picking off Jay Cutler in the end zone three plays later.

"They have tremendous playmakers as well as we do," Tillman said. "I think it's a challenge we accept."

The other challenge the Bears apparently readily accepted was Smith's decision to play his starters throughout, a move that could have backfired but made sense for a defense that seemed to find its mojo and an offense that continues to need fine-tuning. Especially now that it's over.

"We came out healthy, so it was a good call," Briggs said.

Rodgers, whose team was playing for a playoff berth, still found time to chitchat with old rivals.

"I was joking with Charles, Lance and Brian, wondering when they were going to take a seat on the bench," Rodgers said.

If the two teams hate each other as we're supposed to believe, it's hard to detect. But that doesn't mean some good old-fashioned folklore can't be perpetuated. And Adams played along.

"It's the Packers, come on," the Bears tackle said. "You've got to play regardless of what your record is and what the situation is. Bronko Nagurski would have wanted us to play. Dick Butkus. Everybody."

Well, maybe not everybody. But Tillman captured the spirit of the argument, backhanding the hot debate of the week: "I'm not mad that we played the whole game."

It's hard to tell who they were trying to convince but the general consensus in the Bears' locker room afterward was that while the effort was there, the heart perhaps wasn't.

"For a team not playing for much, it was nice to see our guys playing hard all game," Urlacher said, also sniffing at the notion that Sunday was even close to a playoff atmosphere.

"We weren't playing for anything," he said. "Everything we needed to do was done already. The crowd was loud obviously because there was a lot on the line for them, but it didn't feel like a playoff game. ... We have a bye week coming up, so it'll keep us in shape."

"We didn't do a whole lot," Briggs echoed. "We scaled back. It was more about technique than getting in an attacking mode."

Beyond the glorified workout, however, had to be a bit of affirmation.

In the five games prior to Sunday, the Bears' defense had allowed 26 points per game while watching its overall ranking drop from third to 10th.

Adams called the Jets' 34 points last week "embarrassing" and said the Bears had to get back to the basics, which means staying disciplined and not trying to play the hero, an area the Bears have been superb in this season and generally returned to on Sunday.

"There's nothing negative that happened today," Smith said.

Well, not on one side of the ball, anyway.

Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

MORE NFL HEADLINES