After getting called out by coach Matt Nagy following a poor performance against the Packers — and accused of quitting by NBC analyst Tony Dungy — the Bears’ defense took its punishment and vowed to make it about pride and show what it’s made of Sunday.
And it wasn’t much.
Instead of bowing up and responding with a command performance befitting a unit that feels it’s one of the best in the NFL, the Bears’ defense instead imploded again in a 34-30 loss to the Lions at Soldier Field.
The Bears allowed 460 yards to a Lions offense that came in tied for 20th in the NFL in total yards — the most yards the Bears have allowed in regulation since 2016. They allowed 34 points to a team that was shut out by the Panthers two weeks ago.
“Yeah, we’re a proud defense,” nose tackle Bilal Nichols said. “We know we need to be better — point blank, period. We can’t have weeks where we’re not playing the ball that we need to be playing. It’s on us. We gotta be better as a defense.”
With the Lions down 30-20 and pinned to their 4-yard line with 4:33 to go, a proud defense had a chance to atone for another poor performance and put the hammer down — and instead allowed the Lions to drive 96 yards on seven plays for a touchdown in just 2:15.
Even mild resistance would have at least bled the clock, but the defense wasn’t up to it. After a first-down incompletion, Stafford was 6-for-6 — completions of 14 yards to tight end T.J. Hockenson, 22 and 17 to Danny Amendola, five to Marvin Jones, 13 to Hockenson and a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jones.
“That’s probably the one that we’ll look back at,” Nagy said, “and say, ‘Man, being able to get them to take more time off the clock’ and hold them to at least a minimum of a field goal.”
A defense that led the NFL in third-down conversions two weeks ago, allowed the Lions to convert 6-of-11 third-down situations, including Stafford’s 15-yard pass to Marvin Jones, Jr. on third-and-10 and Stafford’s 25-yard pass to Jones on third-and-12.
“I thought that was big there, with some of those,” Nagy said. “We got them into where we wanted them with third down but we weren’t able to get off the field. That right there is when you look back and see that.”
There are no mitigating factors this time. Defensive end Akiem Hicks was back after missing the Packers game. While Matthew Stafford is good, he’s not Aaron Rodgers and he doesn’t have the Packers offense at his controls.
And so much for the idea that the Bears defense suffers from so rarely playing with a lead. The Lions ran 65 of their 66 offensive plays while trailing Sunday — down 9-0, 16-6, 23-13 and 30-20. But with an opportunity to unleash the full fury of a defense loaded with expensive play-makers, the Bears could muster only two mild sacks (for zero and two yards) and a fourth-quarter interception by Nichols.
The good was far outweighed by the bad. Cornerback Buster Skrine made a fabulous play to close fast and stop Jamal Agnew for no gain on fourth-and-one on the Lions’ first possession. But he later committed an illegal use of hands penalty that nullified a Khalil Mack sack.
Nichols interception with the Bears leading 30-20 with 9:22 left seemed like a finishing touch. But it wasn’t.
“You alway got to play to the end of the fourth quarter,” Nichols said. “It’s the NFL. They have great player, too. It’s never over until the clock hits zero — that was may thought process. It’s not over. We gotta finish it.”