Less has been said about the defense looking mortal the past several weeks. After going nearly two seasons without allowing a 100-yard rusher, Chicago's D has allowed the century mark to be breached in back-to-back losses.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano knows his defense hasn't played up to the lofty measure it set.
"Certainly, the standard is the standard," Pagano said, via the team's official website. "We have played to that standard at times. I think it's just consistency. Again, you look at the first half of the last game -- we played well, and we played consistent. Now we've got to do it for 60 minutes."
The Bears defense currently ranks 13th in pass D, 12th in rushing yards allowed, 10th in third-down percent allowed, 10th in total yards given up, seventh in sacks and fifth in scoring D. Last year, Chicago ranked No. 1 in Football Outsiders DVOA, with the top-ranked pass D and No. 2 run defense. Per Football Outsiders, the Bears were drastically better than any other D last season (-26.0 percent while No. 2 was -14.5 percent). Through six games, they've fallen to sixth overall, eighth versus the pass and 16th against the run, in FO's metrics. Not shabby. But no longer impenetrable.
Perhaps a come-down-to-earth should have been expected.
Pagano replaced Vic Fangio. The new DC could become the scapegoat if the defense doesn't meet the high benchmark it set under Fangio. Certain players are not playing up to their own lofty standards -- linebacker Roquan Smith, to name one -- and injuries have hurt, especially losing Akiem Hicks in the middle of the D-line.
The other issue is that the offense has given the defense no margin for error. Knowing you have to be perfect can lead to players trying to do more than their assignment.
"Sometimes you can press," said Pagano, "and you can try to, 'Hey, I've gotta do something special,' to go make a play and get a turnover or do this and that, flip the field, whatever that is, and you can't do that. You've gotta stay steady and stick to the process and do your job, and that's it. It's no different for me or anybody else."
Perhaps if the offense finally turns a corner, Pagano's defense won't be ground into a pulp each week, and we will see a unit closer to last season's otherworldly performance. Until then, however, it's on Pagano and his side of the ball to win games, which is a difficult task for any defense in 2019.