Bears defense just swarming upPatrick Finleyon September 23, 2021 at 8:18 pm

With the Bears up by 17 with about six minutes to play Sunday, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks was double-teamed by the Bengals’ center and right guard — but just for a second. Quarterback Joe Burrow threw a tunnel screen to the left to receiver Tee Higgins, who caught the ball outside the numbers and weaved up the left sideline.

Hicks took off down the field for Higgins.

“Sometimes you gotta run, man … ” Hicks said after the game. “I saw him working his way and he was wiggling through some guys. And then he popped out.”

And then Hicks squished him. Weighing 120 pounds more than Higgins, Hicks tackled the receiver nine yards from the line of scrimmage. Higgins had to be helped off the field.

“That’s part of the emphasis we were talking about,” Hicks said. “Every play you need to have that same burst.”

The play turned heads during the Bears’ film review Tuesday.

“You could feel the excitement that it had in the room,” defensive coordinator Sean Desai said Thursday. “Anytime we get guys pursuing to the ball, it’s something that we try to pride ourselves on. He’s the prime example on that play. Good things happen when you run to the ball, whether you take the ball away or deliver big hits, and opponents see that and opponents can feel that swarm and that energy.”

In Week 1, only four teams allowed more points than the Bears, who gave up 34 to the Rams. In Week 2, only four teams allowed fewer points than the 17 the Bears gave up to the Bengals.

What was the difference? Players pointed to the swarm, while Desai preached the value of technique, discipline and fundamentals. That’s ignoring one critical, obvious point: the Rams are Super Bowl contenders, while the Bengals are projected to finish last in their division. Sunday’s opponent, the Browns, are in the Rams’ tier, if not above them. They’ve averaged 30 points per game, sixth-most in the NFL.

If the secret to the Bears’ success was the swarm, let’s see them do it against an elite team.

“We know what we put out there [in Week 1] wasn’t Chicago Bears football, and it bothered us,” defensive lineman Bilal Nichols said. “We made it an emphasis all last week to come in, get better and get back to swarming and get back to doing what we do. I think we did that on Sunday.”

The Bears stressed the swarm in Week 1, too. It was a greater point of emphasis against the Bengals, Desai said, because of that failure.

“We are trying to uphold that standard,” he said. “Which is a difficult thing to do.”

Outside linebacker Robert Quinn said Bears defenders need to focus on “doing our one-11th” — a new twist on the old Bill Belichick “Do Your Job” slogan.

“If you’ve got coverage, make sure your man doesn’t catch it,” Quinn said. “If you’ve got to rush, make sure you get to the quarterback and stop the run if they decide to run your way.

“The good thing about playing defense is you don’t have to make it too complicated to be great.”

Swarming, Hicks said, is “something we’re going to have to stay on ourselves about.” That shouldn’t be too hard after the Rams debacle. Following the season-opening loss in Los Angeles, the Bears flew all night and landed back home at 5 a.m.

“It sits with you differently,” Hicks said. “Not only are you tired, but you just got done getting whupped … As long as we remember that feeling, we should be good.”

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