LAKE FOREST – Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano shouldered the blame Thursday for his defense’s inability to escape the field early in last week’s loss at Philadelphia.
“Playing the amount of snaps that we played in the first half, it’s our own fault,” Pagano said. “You’ve got to make plays. I’ve got to be better. We’ve got to get off the field. The positives are that we played 50 plays in the first half and we only gave up 12 points.”
That included the Eagles’ first two drives of the game, each of which lasted more than 61/2 minutes. It didn’t help that the Bears’ offense provided a historically low 9 yards of offense in the first half.
Bears safety Eddie Jackson said he’s surprised to see the Bears sitting at 3-5 at the midway point of the season.
“You see everything we helped build and put together, the type of players we have in here, it’s kind of crazy to see how our record doesn’t define the type of team we are,” Jackson said. “For us, we’ve just got to continue to come together and go out there every week and get better.”
It doesn’t get any easier this week against a Detroit Lions team averaging the third-most passing yards a game in the NFL.
Pagano had lofty praise for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is on pace for one of the best seasons of his career.
“He’s in the MVP conversation as far as I’m concerned,” Pagano said. “He’s playing as good as I’ve seen him. I’ve faced him before, and he’s playing at a high, high level. He’s a really, really talented guy, and he’s playing with a ton of confidence. He can throw that football, and he’s got playmakers, obviously.”
Despite Pagano’s assertion, Stafford and the letters M-V-P are likely a nonstarter unless the 11th-year veteran can pull Detroit back into playoff contention. At 3-4-1, the Lions – as with the Bears – need a win this week to turn things around.
“For this, a division game, especially at home, and everything we went through so far this season, it’s just time for everybody to step up,” Jackson said.
Stafford’s current 106 QB rating would be the best of his career. He conceivably could throw 40 touchdown passes (he has 19 at the halfway point), something he has done only once in his career.
Lions receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones each have 35 or more receptions for more than 500 yards this season.
First-year offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has the Lions’ offense rolling. Bevell previously served in the same role with the Seahawks from 2011 to 2017, including Seattle’s Super Bowl title.
“I put him for sure as one of the top quote-unquote gunslingers in this league,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said of Stafford. “I think he can throw from every arm angle possible, and he’s always aggressive. It doesn’t matter. If he thinks there’s a tight window, he’s going to try to fit it.”
Teddy Bridgewater and the Saints found some holes in the Bears’ secondary in Week 7. That was another game in which a lengthy amount of time on the field led to breakdowns for the Bears. Bridgewater threw for 281 yards that day.
It’s a blueprint that Stafford has the skill set to exploit.
“Pretty much everyone around the league knows what he’s capable of … the numbers he’s putting up this year,” Bears linebacker Roquan Smith said. “It’ll be great for our defense, and I think it will be a great challenge for us to come out and play a guy of his caliber.”