The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

November 19, 2013

Defense keeps improving

By Andrew Seligman AP Sports Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Julius Peppers wreaked havoc again.

David Bass and Jonathan Bostic became the first set of Chicago Bears’ rookies to record interceptions in the same game in 24 years, and the defense continued to show signs that’s it’s coming together despite being ripped apart by injuries.

That was one of the most encouraging developments for Chicago in Sunday’s 23-20 overtime victory over Baltimore.

Now, the Bears are once again tied with Detroit for the NFC North lead at 6-4 and right back in the thick of the playoff race after they appeared to be on shaky ground.

They were coming off a loss to the Lions that gave Detroit a two-game sweep and had dropped four of six. Then, they had to wait out about a two-hour rain delay and put in extra time on the way to a much-needed win over the Ravens.

A big chunk of the credit goes to a defense that was ineffective at the start of the season and got hit hard by injuries. But while players have been going down, confidence appears to be on the rise with a game at St. Louis coming up Sunday.

“It grows, because I see what we’re doing in practice,” coach Marc Trestman said Monday. “I see the work that’s being put in. I stand behind the defense during their periods, and I see the run fits getting better, the communication getting better. I like the fact that our coaches are embracing the development of our young players. We’re not spending time thinking about the loss of some of the players that we’ve lost. We’ve taken all that energy into building the best defense we can to play good team football.”

The Bears have struggled against the run and were having trouble getting to the quarterback, even before all the injuries started to pile up, but in some ways, it was a different story against the Ravens.

Peppers had two sacks to double his total to four. He was also credited with 11 tackles, including four for a loss, in what might have been the best game in a disappointing season for the eight-time Pro Bowler.

He missed some preseason practices because of a hamstring injury, and a slow start raised questions about his future in Chicago. But against Baltimore, that old spark was there.

“I thought he’s obviously gaining strength and momentum,” Trestman said. “Really his energy level was consistent throughout the game. We all had a sense during the week that this was going to be a game that he was going to turn it up. It was good to see.”

Most important, Baltimore struggled to score, something Green Bay and Detroit also had trouble doing the previous two games.

The Bears gave up 20 points in a win at Lambeau Field and held the Lions to 21 in a loss at Soldier Field. Throw in the Ravens game and the past three have been a big improvement over the first seven, when Chicago allowed an average of 29.4 points.

Sure, Baltimore was able to run the ball. Ray Rice went off for 131 yards and a touchdown after averaging just 2.5 yards a carry coming into the game. He broke off a 47-yard dash in the early going, but the Bears really didn’t give up many big plays on the ground after the first quarter.

They also contained Joe Flacco from the start. They held him to 162 yards and intercepted him twice, and while the weather on a day when storms battered the region played a role, so did a defense that’s been repeatedly forced to shuffle its lineup.