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A 19-16 victory in a must-win game should have created at least a bit of a stir in the Bears' locker room. But linebacker Lance Briggs saw little reason to celebrate, at least about the defensive effort.
"We need to do better," Briggs said. "We missed some tackles. Everything we did [wrong] was pretty obvious. We just have to tackle. That's something we all know how to do. It's as simple as that."
Seven weeks into the season, it's hard to believe conversation about the Bears centers on an offense showing progress and a defense still in need of a tune-up.
Sunday's win over the Eagles was made possible because Brian Griese drove his team 97 yards in 11 plays, a drive capped by Griese's 15-yard game-winning touchdown pass to a rejuvenated Muhsin Muhammad. Griese played like a veteran, showing surprising mobility in avoiding the Eagles' pass rush and throwing for 300-plus yards (322 exactly) for the second straight week.
And Robbie Gould's four field goals—including one that took a Bears' bounce off an upright—kept Chicago in the game.
And you thought it would come down to which team would be first to create a turnover. As it turned out, neither team coughed the ball up.
"Did we have a takeaway? No, we didn't even have a takeaway," cornerback Charles Tillman said. "Don't get me wrong. I'm very grateful that we did win the game. But we are capable of playing better football."
No doubt the defense will have to recapture its dominance if the Bears hope to build on this last-minute win. At 3-4, hope is back following last week's collapse against the Vikings. With the suddenly dangerous 4-2 Lions bringing their high-powered offense to Soldier Field next week, it would be ideal for the defense to put two strong halves together, for a change. Remember, the Lions scored 37 the last time the teams met.
"We're ready," defensive tackle Tommie Harris said, speaking of the Lions. "You don't come into Philadelphia and win in that stadium against Donovan McNabb. So that boosted our confidence so much.
"Detroit don't come into Chicago and win in our stadium. We have to be 4-4 going into our [week off]. We have to be. … I'm going to do whatever I have to do for us to be 4-4."
For the defense, "whatever" means eliminating the mental lapses and fundamental breakdowns that have dogged them this season. Not to mention avoiding injury, which the Bears failed to do again this week. Safety Brandon McGowan had his right arm in a sling after the game. And Harris was a bit banged up too.
That's not to say there weren't any positives Sunday. Brian Urlacher quickly silenced the critics wondering about his back. He equaled his tackle total against the Vikings with five in the first quarter and finished with a team-high 12. Harris had two key sacks of McNabb on a fourth-quarter drive. And the defense must have learned its lesson after being schooled by the Vikings' Adrian Peterson, because it held Brian Westbrook to 79 yards rushing.
"The sad part about it is we're used to playing A-plus-type defense, and we've gotten away from that," defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said.
Whatever halftime adjustments defensive coordinator Bob Babich made worked, as the Bears gave up 214 yards in the first half but only 110 in the second. "Bullet" helped the Bears dodge one. And it helped that the Eagles were allergic to the grass inside the 20, going 1 for 4 after entering the game ranked 28th in the NFL in red zone efficiency.
"The big thing we did today is we didn't give up any big plays," Babich said. "I think, in the long run, that really helped us out. As we watch the tape, there's obviously going to be things as a defensive unit and coaching staff that we need to get corrected."
Babich might cringe when he looks at the fourth-quarter score the Bears allowed, with McNabb hitting tight end Matt Schobel in the middle of the field to put the Eagles up 16-12. The Eagles had the ball at the Bears' 13-yard line, and Schobel positioned himself perfectly behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties, who were late getting over.
"It was a good play," free safety Danieal Manning said. "They caught us. We were in Cover-2. We had good breaks. It was just a good catch, a good read. That same play, we could stop it in the middle of the field for a 7-yard gain. But right there in the end zone, it's tight."
On that drive, Tillman was flagged for pass interference while defending Kevin Curtis on a second-and-10 play from the Bears' 45. He shadowed Curtis the entire game.
"It was a tough call," Tillman said. "If I don't get that pass interference … I guess I shouldn't have hooked him. I can't get that pass interference so late in the game. That's a hustle play, but I can't get that call."
One play seemed to mark the Bears' doom, when McNabb raced past Mark Anderson and Harris on the sideline for a first down on third-and-8 from his own 44 with 3 minutes 8 seconds left in the game. But a holding penalty pushed the Eagles back, then Briggs stopped Westbrook on third down to turn the ball back over to the Bears.
A good play on Briggs' part, but he wasn't satisfied with his play, as a whole. He made his first tackle in the third quarter and finished with just five.
Briggs was content about the outcome. "More than anything, we won," he said. "What are we, 3-4 now? We're giving ourselves a chance."