Bears-Packers LB Viewer's Guide: Briggs’ next step back crucial to staggering “D”

Bears-Packers LB Viewer's Guide: Briggs’ next step back crucial to staggering “D”
December 28, 2013, 9:30 am
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Looking backwards doesn’t usually accomplish much but in looking toward to the Green Bay game, a sense of what was Bears on what might be in the latest in a string of “biggest games of the year.”

The return of Lance Briggs from his fractured shoulder did not have the desired boost effect on a defense that had sagged and collapsed on a near-weekly basis since his injury in the Washington game. Briggs was able to contribute just one assisted tackle to a defense that was shredded on every level.

“We had some very, very poor reads on some basic run plays and really took us out of some plays that we thought that we would be able to make,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

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Briggs was far from the real problem, which extended through offense and special teams as well as defense. He played like someone who’d missed seven weeks going against one of the league’s best offenses.

The rest of the defense didn’t have that excuse, however. James Anderson, one of the more consistent members of the unit, managed just three tackles, tying his season low.

Jonathan Bostic, however, was a surprise positive with his eight tackles, six of them solo in addition to a fumble recovery, and he was on the field for every snap for the seventh time in the past eight games.

“We all benefit from having Briggs back,” Tucker said. “It was a mixed bag for him [Bostic]. He had some good plays. He also had some plays that we wish we had back and we’ve got to coach him through and we’ve got to improve. But we all benefit from having Lance back. Lance did a real nice job getting us lined up and getting us into the defenses and make sure we were ready to play when the ball was snapped.”

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What to look for: The Packers did not do as well with their backup quarterbacks (Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzein, Matt Flynn) as the Bears did with theirs (Josh McCown) but the trend line is concerning. The Green Bay offense bumbled through the first four games Aaron Rodgers missed, and then scored 22, 37 and 31 points in winning two of the last three.

The Packers currently rank top-10 in nearly every significant offensive category in both running and passing. And the latter area is expected to become increasingly difficult to handle with Rodgers’ return, placing a premium on a linebacker corps that was not up to the task of handling a top run-pass combo offense a week ago.

“We have to play faster. We have to eliminate the hesitation, and continue to coach through and work through that as players,” Tucker said. “Just preparing for the Packers, they have an excellent scheme. They do a great job regardless of the quarterback situation. They can move the ball on pretty much anyone. They do a great job of running the ball and all that type of thing… . But it’s going to really be about us.”