How Bears are working ‘tirelessly' to clean up tackling


For all the talk about 4th-and-goal playcalling, or how many pass attempts Justin Fields had, one of the most simple reasons the Bears fell to the Packers was because they couldn’t stop Green Bay’s run game. More specifically, they couldn’t tackle. On Wednesday, Matt Eberflus was asked if the numerous missed tackles were something the coaches were going to focus on during the week of practice to correct ASAP, or if they were something the Bears will simply have to live with since they’re installing a new defense with a young roster.

Eberflus could not have been more clear with his response.

“You’re not tolerant at all,” Eberflus said. “It’s something we have to correct and we’re going to work tirelessly to get that done.”

It wasn’t all talk. The Bears spent extra time in individual drills on Wednesday to hammer home the details of tackling technique. While it may seem routine for a team to go through tackling drills after a performance like that, players say it’s the way in which the coaches teach the technique, and how they emphasize various points that stand out from other coaching regimes.

“Night and day, it’s totally different,” said Eddie Jackson. “It’s really emphasized. Like REALLY emphasized, down to the ‘t’, like for real, for real.”

Further, there’s an appreciation in the locker room for the way coaches are clearly connecting mistakes identified on film to the ways coaches are teaching corrections to those mistakes. Then they’re connecting those corrections directly to the drills they’re running in practice to help the players get back on track.

In true Eberflus fashion, he has a name for the tackling technique the Bears want to use: the Hamstring Tackle. And in true Eberflus fashion, there are detailed steps and teaching points for players to follow to execute the technique.

When explaining it to the press, however, Eberflus kept things very simple.

“If you take a person’s legs away, they can’t run,” Eberflus said. “So you wanna do that, and it’s been proven to us that when you do that, you put guys sideways or backwards. We did it a few times over the first couple games but we need to see it more consistently.

“We are tackling too high right now. We’ve got to tackle lower. We’ve just got to do a better job of executing the way we tackle.”

Players recite that same line about taking a player’s legs away so they can’t run, so clearly that’s a top level teaching point. But Bears coaches have also provided the players with the evidence that the technique works. That evidence has helped foster more buy-in on the practice field.

The staff has also earned credibility and buy-in with the players in the film room. They give clear direction and have clear standards, but their critiques are never overly derisive. It’s a learning environment, not a blaming environment.

“Sometimes you can be so critical you think the world’s going to fall, so you can’t rebound next week,” said Nick Morrow. “I don’t think we did that.

“I think it was honest. Saying this is what we did: This wasn’t good enough. This was good, but not where we want it to be, and this was bad. I think we were honest about the tape and seeing what we were.”

“The thing I like the most is that there was no pointing fingers,” said Jackson. “For us to be able to take that coaching, and everyone knows and self-evaluates themselves, I call it direct criticism. For anybody to sit there and take it, and not be mad or bitching about it, you know we’re able to take it, that’s huge. Then to see us go out there today and everyone knows we have to emphasize on this, nobody is being lazy or going, ‘Poor me.’ Everybody’s buying in to getting 1% better.”

Jackson expected a defensive performance like last Sunday’s was bound to happen. With a young team, it was just a matter of time. Now that a poor performance like that has happened, Jackson is glad it happened early in the year. He believes the younger players can learn a lot from the work they put in to correct the mistakes, and the team as a whole will be better in the long run because of it. In the short term, he expects the Bears defense to look a whole lot better when the Texans come to town because of last week’s failures.

“Most definitely. You’re definitely gonna see a different defense next Sunday.”

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