Chicago Bears coordinator Mel Tucker, whose defense gave up a season-high 258 rushing yards to the St. Louis Rams last week, doesn't see any value in dwelling on the negative. In order for his unit to get better, he's accentuating the positive.
"We showed [the players] a series of clips from the previous game. I think there were 10-12 clips of everyone on defense, in the run game, doing exactly what they were supposed to do, and they were 1-, 2-, 3-yard gains. So that's encouraging," Tucker said today. "We're looking to build off of those plays. And if you can get that type of execution in a game on a consistent basis, then you have a chance to stop people. So we're building on what we've shown that we can do in games, with the guys that we do have. We just need to do it on a more consistent basis."
Consistency has been a big issues this year for Tucker and the defensive players, which is why they are currently ranked dead last in the league in stopping the run.
"Typically, it's just consistency in performance," said Tucker. "In this game of football it's the ultimate team sport. In order to play great defense, especially run defense, everyone needs to be exactly where they need to be on every play. It only takes one breakdown to cause a big play. We really don't have margin for error, especially when you're playing good teams with good talent. Everyone has to be on point.
"So everything we saw was correctable. A lot of it, we were able to correct in the game. The biggest thing for us is just taking it from the practice field to the game. That's huge. You go over it in the meetings and film study and you come out here, and you walk through it, and then you run through a lot of it. Then, it looks good and everyone is sound and solid. We just have to take that to the games. I'm confident we can get that done."
Tucker has been dealt a tough hand, with more than half of his opening-day roster on the shelf. The constant shuffling of personnel hasn't allowed chemistry to develop amongst the starting 11, although Tucker said that's finally beginning to build.
"We make adjustments here and there," Tucker said. "The main thing is to do what your players can do. That's first and foremost. And try to put guys in a position where they can be successful. We're getting closer to that point, where guys know what their job is and where they need to be. And at this point, it's about actually finishing and making a play. So that's where we are and that's the step we need to make this week."
This isn't the first time Tucker has had to deal with an under-performing run defense. As coordinator in Jacksonville last year, the Jaguars finished 30th in the league against the run.
"In Jacksonville, our yards per carry was more reflective than what our overall total yards per game," said Tucker. "But when you have injuries, then you have new guys in and things like that, it's always going to be an issue to get continuity, to get guys to trust each other. There's going to be a little bit of learning on the job. But at the end of the day, the job still needs to get done. We're trying to accelerate the process with these guys and get them better faster as a unit. We don't have a whole heck of a lot of time. So every meeting, every practice, every pre-practice walkthrough, post-practice walk-through, whatever it is, everything is so vitally important at this point. Because we need every rep we can get to get better, to get to the point where we can play on a consistent level."
"He's a relentless competitor," Tucker said. "Every time he gets the ball, he's trying to take it the distance. He's willing to take the tough yards. He's always looking to fall forward. With a back like him, everyone is at the point of attack on every play; front side and back side. He stresses everyone on your front, and in your secondary in terms of leverage, gaps and things like that because he can hit it anywhere.
"At the end of the day, we still have to get the job done regardless of who's in there. That's what we talked to those guys about today. When everyone is where they're supposed to be executing, and trusting their technique and taking it to the game, then we're able to stop people in the run game. So consistency in performance, that's what has to happen. They're going to run the ball. It's going to be a very similar run game scheme-wise as the one we just saw on Sunday. So we'll prepare, and the biggest thing is we're going to take it from the practice field into the game, and be ready for that challenge."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.