Chicago’s defensive turnaround with Eberflus as play-caller
Robert Deutsch - USA Today Sports

Chicago’s defensive turnaround with Eberflus as play-caller

by - Correspondent -

CHICAGO - There have not been too many positives for Matt Eberflus as the head coach of the Bears. While it seems unlikely he will remain with the organization after this season as Chicago will most likely start to clean house, he has been a solid defensive play-caller following the departure of Alan Williams.

Coming into this season, Williams was in his second season as the defensive coordinator of the Bears. In his first season, Chicago had one of the worst rushing defenses in the league, being second-worst in rushing yards and worst in rushing touchdowns allowed.

He only called defense for one game this season, that being the season opener against the Green Bay Packers. The following week, he was unable to attend the game against the Buccaneers for personal reasons, prompting Eberflus to take over play-calling duties. When Williams was no longer with the organization a few days later, Eberflus stated his intention to keep play-calling duties and has been doing so ever since.

Under Eberflus, the Bears now have one of the best-rushing defenses in the NFL. They have allowed the least amount of yards out of any team and are second in yards per rushing attempt allowed. In addition, they have also made strides in passing defense, as they are now ranked No. 9 in passing yards allowed and No. 7 in interceptions.

Part of what is attributing to this improvement is the offseason additions the Bears made on defense. One of those would be linebacker TJ Edwards, who spent his first four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. Edwards is having the best season of his career thus far, leading the league in tackles with 127 and has two sacks which is tied for a career-high. He has also dropped back in coverage some, defending three passes in the last four games.

Fellow linebacker Tremaine Edmunds has also made quite an impact. Despite missing two games, he already has 77 tackles this season, including four for loss, as well as two interceptions which is tied for a career-high. Edmunds has also recorded his first forced fumble since his rookie season.

Both the performance of Edwards and Edmunds has been elevated with Eberflus as the play caller. Adding edge rusher Montez Sweat to the mix has improved things even more, as it has opened up opportunities for other defensive linemen while Sweat continues to get pressure in the backfield. In fact, Sweat has 2.5 sacks in the past two games alone.

The one aspect the defense, as well as the rest of the team, needs to improve on is finishing games. That is something the defense did against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football after quarterback Justin Fields’s second fumble of the game late in the fourth quarter, and Fields was able to finish off with a game-winning drive. For the rest of the season, if the Bears lose a game, they will reasonably be eliminated from the playoffs, as a losing team has never garnered a wild card spot.

Going against the Detroit Lions in a rematch in their next game on Sunday, December 10 (Noon / FOX), the defense will be key to victory. The offense already proved they can score against this team. But the defense will have to generate turnovers once again to help give Fields and the offense a short field. Turnovers have been a strong suit as of late, with the defense generating eight in the last two games.

Perhaps their biggest challenge in this final stretch is the Cleveland Browns, who also have one of the best defenses in the league. Their offense has not been the most explosive, so this will be a defensive battle where all points are vital. Thus, winning the turnover margin will be the key to victory in this game as well.

Against the Packers at the beginning of the season, Chicago allowed 38 points in Williams’s only game calling the plays. Now, with Eberflus at play caller, when the season concludes with Green Bay in Lambeau, if the Bears are able to survive their first four games before that and have a playoff chance, limiting the explosive plays from the Packer offense will be essential as well.

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