The Bears' defense is taking more than its share of the blame for the Bears' four-game losing streak that has put their playoff hopes on life-support. Their greatest culpability is that they've been good when they needed to be great.
In the previous four games against the Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos and Seahawks, the Bears' defense allowed a total of 26 points and 3.7 yards per play in the first half and that includes the fluke 38-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass by the Chiefs.
But with the offense unable to produce very many sustained drives, let alone scoring drives, the defense has eventually wilted in the second half. The Bears held the Broncos to 150 yards of total offense through three quarters, but allowed 195 in the fourth quarter and overtime in a 13-10 loss.
That's pretty much typified the situation during the losing streak. They just wilted a little earlier against the Seahawks -- after holding Seattle to 84 yards in the first half, they allowed 135 in the third quarter, including a five-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to start the second half.
Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, baited several times into shifting some of the blame on the Bears' impotent offense since Jay Cutler suffered a broken thumb, wasn't biting Wednesday. He never does.
"It's been frustrating,'' Urlacher said. ''It hasn't been hard. Football is still football. It's still fun. It's been hard to make plays for us for some reason. We're playing small ball with these teams. We haven't given up a lot of points until last week. We just fell apart in the second half. But we've been playing decent for the most part. We just need to make some more big plays."
Considering the Bears are going to get burned every now and then with a big play, their biggest failing has been an inability to make those big plays. The Bears' defense has two interceptions and two fumble recoveries during the four-game losing streak. Even Julius Peppers' strip of Tarvaris Jackson that was recovered by Israel Idonije for a touchdown against the Seahawks wasn't enough.
''No matter what the situation is, we feel like we have to play better,'' Urlacher said. ''We haven't gotten the takeaways, which we've been know for around here for a long time. We've got to get some more of those but our run game has been really good the last few weeks.
''We've played a lot of man though. We've got to get the extra guy out of the box. It puts our corners on islands. It's tough for them. They've done a good job challenging the receivers but we've got to make some play in Cover 2 as well versus the running game."
The Bears' defense has improved from 25th in total yards allowed when Cutler was injured to 17th in the last three weeks. And they've improved from 10th in rushing defense to eighth. Even their pass defense has improved from 30th when Cutler went down to 27th.
But statistically, it's pretty clear the defense is getting worn down. Whether it's because it's late in the season or that the Bears' best defensive players are 30 or older -- Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and Charles Tillman -- the fact of the matter is that the offense is the biggest culprit for putting too much weight on a good but not great defense.
Right, Brian Urlacher?
"I don't think so,'' he said. ''We don't think about it. I mean, we have a hard enough time ourselves. We can't be worried about what happens on offense. If our number's called we've got to go out there and make some plays and get off the field -- give them ball in good field position for a change. We haven't done that in a long time.''