ARLINGTON, Texas — With all the concerns swirling around the Bears this season, the one thing they should’ve been able to count on was their defense. Matt Eberflus has a lot to prove in the wide-ranging responsibility of being a head coach, but he built his career on defensive expertise.
Regardless of limited personnel available to him amid the rebuild, defense shouldn’t be the Bears’ biggest problem.
But it was Sunday. The Cowboys scored touchdowns on their first four possessions and cooked the Bears 49-29. They were a touchdown away from hanging more points on the Bears than any opponent in their century-plus of existence.
“We never can allow someone to score that many points on us,” linebacker Roquan Smith said. “That’s embarrassing.”
It’s a recurring problem: Any time the Bears face an offense that knows what it’s doing, it overwhelms them.
They looked fine against the sputtering 49ers in a downpour, the fledgling Texans and the Giants and Patriots as they dealt with quarterback fiascos.
But the Packers? Down 24-7 by halftime.
The Vikings? Kirk Cousins opened with 17 straight completions and led 21-3 halfway through the second quarter
The Cowboys? A parade of touchdowns to go up 28-7 late in the first half.
It’s a shoelace-thin path to victory from that point.
The Bears were a step or two from the opening possession. Quarterback Dak Prescott kept finding easy completions, and running back Tony Pollard took all the yards he wanted.
Prescott made it look effortless as he led the Cowboys on four consecutive touchdown drives, needing an average of just 3:20. His easiest throw Sunday was a 1-yarder in the end zone to backup tight end Jake Ferguson as Smith lagged in coverage.
“I should have made that play every day of the week and twice on Sunday,” Smith said. “That’s inexcusable.”
But that’s how virtually everyone on the defense looked for most of the game.
Prescott completed 21 of 27 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Pollard ran 14 times for 131 yards and three touchdowns. The Cowboys’ tight ends caught nine passes for 90 yards.
The Cowboys’ second touchdown came when Lamb went in motion from right to left, and nobody picked him up. He caught a 21-yard pass as safeties Jaquan Brisker and Eddie Jackson scrambled futilely.
The Bears pulled within 28-23 in the third quarter and still had a shot when Justin Fields’ 10-yard touchdown pass to Cole Kmet cut the Cowboys’ lead to 42-29 with 13:40 left, but Pollard put them away with a 54-yard touchdown run on the ensuing possession.
On third-and-one, when the Bears desperately needed a stop, no one stepped up.
Jackson zipped into the backfield, but couldn’t catch him.
Smith had at least one hand on him for what would’ve been a four-yard loss.
Pollard broke linebacker Nick Morrow’s arm tackle just before the line of scrimmage.
And the last line of defense, Brisker, was blocked out of the play as Pollard accelerated up the left sideline.
“There were a lot of mistakes on that play,” Smith said. “I actually ended up getting tripped up right there, but that’s no excuse. I’ve still got to make that play — a guy of my caliber.
“It’s embarrassing, and we should never let anyone run the ball like that. We’ve just got to get better.”
Can they, though?
This roster was short on talent from the beginning, and the Bears just traded defensive end Robert Quinn. Eberflus has to reckon with the reality that his personnel isn’t good enough to meet his high standards.
“I don’t believe that,” Eberflus said. “I believe that it comes down to guys doing their job, coaches getting them to do it the right way and us playing the way we’re supposed to.”
The Bears’ hope was that he was the guy capable of doing that. But at this point, the puzzle remains largely unsolved.