The Bears hit Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. A lot. They even sacked him three times. But on many other plays, the elusive Romo dodged and ducked out of trouble and burned Chicago with big plays.
Marion Barber III plowed into the Bears’ line eight consecutive plays. The result: 78 rushing yards and another Cowboys’ touchdown.
“To allow them in the closing moments of the game to run the ball like that is disturbing,” Chicago safety Adam Archuleta said. “That’s not acceptable. We have to have more pride than that.”
For decades, Bears’ defensive pride has been tied to run defense. Bad Chicago teams of the 1960s and ’70s took pride in beating foes up physically, even if they couldn’t beat them on the scoreboard.
Perhaps that’s why the Bears worried so much about run defense late last year even though it was the pass defense that collapsed after Tommie Harris and Mike Brown were injured for the year.
A year ago, the Bears were the NFL’s No. 1 pass defense through 10 weeks, allowing 153 yards, and the absolute worst for the final six, allowing 265. Their run defense remained the exact same, from 99.3 yards to 99.5.
It might be happening again. Archuleta worries about the run defense, even though the Bears shut down LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson and held Dallas to 50 yards on 14 rushes until the final nine minutes of Sunday’s 34-10 defeat. But Tony Romo passed for 329 yards, including 320 in the first three quarters to turn the game into a rout.
“Without a pass rush, it’s a worry,” defensive end Alex Brown said of Chicago’s pass defense. “If we can’t get to the quarterback and get him on the ground, you can put any quarterback back there and they will kill us. We have to get the quarterback on the ground when we hit him.”
The Bears hit Romo. A lot. They even sacked him three times. But on many other plays, the elusive Romo dodged and ducked out of trouble and burned Chicago with big plays.
“He made a lot of plays out there with his feet buying time,” Archuleta said. “It’s tough when a quarterback is able to do that and still deliver some throws. It makes for a long night.
“We’ve got to figure out how he was able to do that and not allow that to happen any more.”
“For some reason,” Brown said, “our radar was off. We just couldn’t get him on the ground.”
Much of that reason was Romo. Chicago might not face another quarterback harder to sack than Dallas’ second-year starter.
“We flushed him out of the pocket. We grabbed him and let go,” Brown said. “But it wasn’t just us. His offensive line kept him alive. They kept him up, kept him moving and made blocks when they needed to.
“It had a lot to do with them. They came here and crushed us. They deserve a lot of credit.”
Facing anyone other than Romo should help Chicago in the future. But it also makes a difference who opponents face. Harris (knee), Nathan Vasher (groin) and Lance Briggs (groin) left Sunday’s game with injuries. If they remain out, how will Chicago stop the pass when it’s missing a Pro Bowl caliber defensive tackle, cornerback and linebacker?
“You are talking about some big-time players,” Archuleta said. “Hopefully, it’s nothing serious and we get them back. If not, we just have to strap it up.”
Brown said: “We’ve talked about our depth on defense. It’s just going to have to show. It’s being put to the test.”
So is Chicago’s pass rush. Archuleta and Brown said how well Chicago defends the pass depends on how much the Bears pressure the quarterback. Brown ran the secondary and was always in the right place. Without him, more mistakes happen in pass coverage. And without Harris, Chicago’s best pass-rushing tackle, quarterbacks have more time to exploit mistakes. That’s what happened last year.
The Bears, who have blitzed far more often this year, say it can’t happen again.
“No one is going to cover for six or seven seconds,” Brown said. “That’s on us. We’ve got to get to the quarterback when we blitz. We’ve got to get to the quarterback when we rush four. That’s what we do.”
Assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at: 815-987-1383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.