Even Brian Urlacher is a little bewildered by the Bears' struggling defense this season. The Bears have dropped from ninth to 23rd in total offense, from second to 28th in rushing defense and fourth to 17th in points allowed. And they've already allowed touchdown plays of 88, 79 and 73 yards -- longer than anything they allowed last season.
"That hasn't happened around here in a long time,'' Urlacher said before practice Thursday. ''We're steady. We don't give up a lot of big plays. We make teams grind it out, long drives to score on us. It just hasn't worked out that way for some reason. We've made some mistakes, mental errors and they've gotten big plays on us."
Some fans and other critics see it as a sign the Bears' defense is getting old, but Urlacher insisted the Bears aren't dead yet.
"It's fixable,'' he said. ''We have players to do our defense. The mental errors and mistakes are just killing us right now. We've got to fix those.''
Urlacher said it's simply a matter of discipline.
"No doubt,'' he said. ''You can see guys getting.... It's a trust issue for us, because if you run through your gap, you're expecting the other guy to run through his gap.
"Now it's getting to the point where you run to your gap and you're getting hedgy, looking around, seeing where the ballcarrier is, and he cuts back through your gap. It's trust issue with us, being disciplined and trusting that the other guy is going to be in his gap. That's what it comes down to for us."
Asked how you fix the mental errors, Urlacher's response sounded like Scott Skiles' solution to Eddy Curry's rebounding difficulties ("Jump.").
''Concentrate,'' Urlacher said with a chuckle. ''It's just concentration and practice. Knowing what you're seeing in practice and when you see a formation, expecting plays out of it.
''We got some veteran guys who know that. We just haven't. You've got to trust the guys going to be in their gap. Don't get hedgy, don't start getting on a block and looking out of your gap. Stay in your gap and trust that the guys are going to be there. We do that and we eliminate a lot of big plays.''
But Urlacher acknowledged this is new territory for him.
''It's frustrating,'' he said. ''Everyone asks me what happened after the game, was I yelling at Lance on the sideline? I said, 'I wasn't yelling at Lance on the sideline. He didn't do anything wrong.' My daughter was like, ''Did you fight with Lance on the sideline?" I said, 'No. Why?' [She said] 'It looked like you were really mad when you were talking to him.'
''We were both mad, because we're not used to this. As long as he and I have been here, we haven't played like this. We've had spurts where we've been bad, but not for five games in a row where you get hit on big plays like that.
''It's frustrating, but like I said, it's fixable. We still have the talent. We're a talented defense. We have good coaches. We have to get out there and do it ourselves. We have the players to do it and we're smart enough to do it. We just need to do it.''