Why Bears defense proud of performance vs. Packers


The Bears blew another lead on Sunday, as they went from up 13 points in the second quarter, to down nine by the time the clock hit triple zeroes. There was poor execution on offense and defense in the fourth quarter, again. And once again the Bears squandered an opportunity to mount a game-winning drive. But after the game, the locker room wasn’t despondent like it had been after the Lions game, or incredulous like it was after the loss to Commanders on Thursday Night Football. Instead, guys were generally upbeat.

“I think we did a damn good job if you ask me,” said Jaylon Johnson. “Especially with those young guys playing Aaron Rodgers for the first time in a high-level game, in a rivalry game, I felt like they held their composure. They did a good job working all week, confident in themselves… we didn’t give them nothing easy.”

“This was one of the first games where I felt like defense played pretty, pretty, pretty good,” said Justin Jones. “Especially for what we had on the backend, our secondary, man, I’m proud of those guys. They came out there and answered the bell. Nobody was out there shook. Everyone was locked in on what they were doing, and communicating. It was beautiful. I’m proud of those guys, for real.”

Johnson and Jones are right. It was a damn good job, and they should be proud. The defense limited Rodgers to a 58% completion rate, under 200 yards passing and just one touchdown. They held Aaron Jones to a 2.9 YPC average. A.J. Dillon was really the only offensive player who had an effective day from start to finish, and the Watson touchdown in the waning moments was the only home run they allowed. They only allowed 10 points through three quarters, and they did it with many starters on the sideline.

Heading into the weekend, we knew the defense was going to be shorthanded with Eddie Jackson ruled out for the rest of the year, and Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker still in the concussion protocol. Things got even more dire 90 minutes to kickoff when Kindle Vildor was ruled inactive with an ankle injury. After that, the question changed from “How will the Bears try to stop Aaron Rodgers?” to “Who’s left that can play in the secondary?”

The answer was Josh Blackwell. The Bears undrafted free agent rookie has been a special teams standout all season, but made his debut on defense against one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Aaron Rodgers has made a career out of picking on young, untested corners, and he targeted Blackwell several times. Blackwell was up to the task however, and had a hand in several incompletions. What was most impressive, however, was Blackwell’s ability to play sticky coverage without being flagged for pass interference.

“It felt good to finally have an opportunity to show what I can do,” Blackwell said. “Feel like I played I played a decent game. Obviously towards the end, the last play, get cracked, guy gets around the edge, somehow gotta play that better if I can. Things like that happen, but overall felt like I played pretty well.”

The last play Blackwell referenced was the long Christian Watson touchdown, which essentially sealed the win for the Packers. But there really wasn’t much Blackwell could do on the play. It was very well designed, and Sammy Watkins executed the key block well.

It’s uncommon for a rookie cornerback buried on the depth chart to come in and immediately make a positive impact like Blackwell did, and in classy fashion he credited his teammates for his success. Blackwell said players on the show team, like Daurice Fountain, Nsimba Webster and Velus Jones Jr. gave him the valuable reps he needed in practice to perform well on Sunday.

“I see Randall Cobb out there, I kinda know what he’s gonna do for the most part,” Blackwell said. “You can play it how you would expect to play it, and if the ball comes, you make the play.”

It wasn’t just Blackwell who came in and gave the Bears a boost. Defensive lineman Andrew Brown joined the team on Wednesday, and made an impact just four days later. Elijah Hicks improved in his first career start, too.

“That’s big time,” said Justin Jones. “People don’t really see that.

“It’s tough. It sucks that we lost, but I’m proud of these guys. I really am. Everybody outside of the locker room doubted us. Nobody in the locker room doubted us. Everybody believes in each other. The guys who came in to play, young guys, rookies who came in to make their first start stepped up. They stepped the hell up. That was a beautiful thing to see and reassuring for everyone else on the defense, as well. Kudos to them, I just hope they keep getting better.”

Johnson believes a performance like Sunday’s will instill confidence in the bevy of young players who took the field for the Bears defense moving forward. That will be important if any of the rookies are called upon to play in relief again over the last month of the season.

“Confidence comes from results,” Johnson said. “Confidence comes from hard work and doing things the right way. I feel like seeing a good result from this, now they have skin in the game. That’s big for young guys, young rookies, especially in the secondary. You’ve gotta get reps, you’ve gotta get in there and get exposed to it. Take the good with the good, take the bad with the bad, but I feel like they did a really good job.

“Everybody wants the opportunity to get in here and play in the big leagues. Everybody wants to go against the Aaron Rodgers, everybody wants to prove themself. They got the opportunity and I feel like they did the most with what they had.”

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