Chicago Bears: One area that is killing the team so far in 2021

Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images
Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images /

The Chicago Bears’ once impenetrable run defense is now getting gashed with ease. That has to change quickly.

The Chicago Bears are in a tailspin. After a 3-2 start, they have now lost three straight games. They are now 3-5 and it doesn’t look like things will get better anytime soon.

There are a number of reasons for the Bears’ struggles. The offense cannot move the ball, let alone score points. On defense, the secondary likes giving up big plays.

Another aspect of the defense that is very concerning is the Bears’ run defense. For years, we’ve seen an impenetrable wall of players that made the opposition work hard for every yard they gained. That is not happening anymore, however. Teams have continually gashed the Bears on the ground, gaining yards with ease.

Chicago Bears: One area that is killing the team so far in 2021

The latest example was last week against the San Francisco 49ers. The Bears gave up 145 yards and a touchdown to a team that isn’t a prolific running team. Of that total, 137 of them were by Elijah Mitchell.

It was the third straight game the Chicago Bears defense gave up 145 or more yards. They even had a game in which they gave up 215 yards on the ground alone (Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns).

The Bears now rank 23rd in rushing yards, 25th in average yards per run, and 18th in rushing touchdowns allowed. Those rankings have been up and down since 2018. After ranking at the top in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in 2018, they went down to 9th and 26th in 2019 and 15th and 2nd in 2020.

This is not something people expected from this defense. Entering the season, the biggest concern was the secondary. After parting ways with former All-Pro Kyle Fuller, the one good constant in the secondary became Jaylon Johnson. However, with the improved pass rush, getting to the quarterback helped to cover up the deficiencies in the secondary.

There is nothing to cover up the deficiencies in the run defense. It’s just the runner against the wall. If there is a crack in that wall, things fall apart. Right now, there is a gaping hole in the Bears’ wall. It’s a matter of who works harder. In fact, the five-yard touchdown run by Mitchell started behind the line of scrimmage. Instead of a loss, he kept moving his legs and the pile kept moving towards the end zone until he got in.

It is not a surprise that the Bears’ three-game losing streak coincides with their run defense falling off. If teams are able to gain big chunks of yards, then the defense has to pack the box to prevent that. Once that is done, it leaves the secondary out in a lurch. We’ll see then how ineffective the secondary really is.

We saw that in the second half of the game against the Niners. San Francisco had just 41 yards rushing in the first half. In the second half, the Niners made adjustments and started running the ball well. That opened things up for Jimmy Garoppolo and he started completing nearly all his passes. He was 7/9 for 149 yards. The Niners also had 15 carries for 107 yards in the second half.

That wasn’t a coincidence.

The Bears need to find a way to improve their run defense quickly. If they can fix it, the defense will continue to deteriorate. Add that to a struggling offense and things will get very ugly as the season progresses.