It’s no secret. The defense was the heartbeat of the Chicago Bears in 2018.
The Bears entered the season with a Top 10 defense already and the best in their division. But what put the cherry on top was the acquisition of All-Pro Khalil Mack just days before the start of the season. With his addition, Chicago became one of the most fierce defenses in the NFL.
If Chicago is going to return to the playoffs in 2019, the defense will need to be tearing offenses apart again. The Bears were able to go 12-4 through the regular season in 2018, winning their division. Two of the losses came in overtime on the road in Miami and New York. They were kept from starting the season 1-0 by a single point in the season opener at Green Bay as Aaron Rodgers led a second-half comeback.
Chicago’s biggest defeat came at the hands of the New England Patriots in Week 7. The Bears came up short 38-31 at Soldier Field.
I know, I know. A loss is a loss, no matter how many points separate the two teams. That being said, the Bears lost four games last season by a total of 14 points. Mack and the boys did one heck of a job last season giving the offense and special teams plenty of opportunities to finish games on top.
Chicago ranked third in total defense in 2018, giving up a total of 299.7 yards per game. While the Bears gave up an average of 220 passing yards a week, seventh in the league, they were the best in the NFL at stopping the run. The Monsters of the Midway held opposing offenses to just 80 yards on the ground per contest. They were also the best in the NFL when it came to keeping opponents off the scoreboard, giving up an average of just 17.7 points per game.
The Bears were third in the NFL with 50 sacks as a unit. Mack was Chicago’s ring leader with 12.5, earning him a spot on the All-Pro Team. Linebacker, Roquan Smith, was able to wrap up 122 of the team’s 944 tackles. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks led the way with 14.5 of the Bears’ 97 tackles for a loss.
Chicago’s secondary was known for having a nose for the ball, leading the NFL in interceptions with 27, five of which were returned for a touchdown. Kyle Fuller made sure opposing quarterbacks kept their eyes on him, leading the Bears with seven picks. The team ranked seventh with 19 forced fumbles, six of which were created by Mack.
If Chicago’s defense wants to put up bigger numbers this season, they have their work cut out for them. Every position will need to be productive with each man pulling his own weight. As long as he stays healthy, Mack will be causing a ton of havoc again this year. However, he can’t do it all by himself. He’s going to see plenty of double team packages. If he is going to be able to break free, he’ll need other players getting plenty of attention themselves.
A ton of production from Leonard Floyd will be a huge help. In 2018, Floyd had 49 tackles. Four times he was able to get to the quarterback for a loss. Floyd had a fumble recovery and an interception, creating a defensive touchdown. If he can build a reputation for getting to the QB quicker, not as much attention will be focused on Mack.
With offenses keeping their guard up against Chicago’s linebackers, look for tackle Hicks to have a monster year in 2019. Last season, Hicks was good for 55 tackles, seven and a half sacks, and three forced fumbles. Increasing his sack total to double digits would play a huge role in leading the Bears defense to a more productive season this year.
With extra attention being given to Hicks, nose tackle Eddie Goldman will have no problem putting up better numbers this season than he did last year. In 2018, the man in the middle was able to wrap up 39 tackles and three sacks. If he’s able to make more of a name for himself as a tackler at the line, Goldman will be a huge part of the Bears run defense.
Chicago also added a dangerous threat in their secondary with the addition of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. While he’ll start training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list, Dix could have a huge season this year, returning to the reputation he once had as a member of the Packers.
Last season, Dix had 92 tackles, three interceptions, a sack, and two forced fumbles. The one year contract he signed with the Chicago could be just what he needs to rejuvenate his career.
The 2019 schedule won’t make things easy for Chicago. Along with playing both Minnesota and the Packers twice, the Bears also play the Saints and Chargers in weeks seven and eight. They play in Los Angeles against the Rams in week 11 and host the Kansas City Chiefs in week 16. They also travel to Philadelphia and host that team from Dallas.
Many fans want to say Chicago was handed a difficult schedule this year. If the defense can find ways to improve from last season, they will have no problem putting together at least another 12-4 season, if not better.