LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- It was rare when Chicago Bears special teams units or players came under fire during nine years with former coordinator Dave Toub, but just four games into this season new coordinator Joe DeCamillis is hearing questions about the punter and punt coverage unit.
To many teams, such a problem might be a sideshow. To a team like the Bears -- who thrived and sometimes won games solely because of special teams -- it is a serious problem. And considering they face the New Orleans Saints and dangerous Darren Sproles Sunday, it is an even bigger issue because field position is one of the ways they hope to keep the explosive New Orleans offense bottled up.
Punter Adam Podlesh experienced a disaster in Detroit, with poor punts of 40, 33 and 35 yards. He lacked hang time, as well. One of those led to a game-changing 57-yard Micheal Spurlock return.
"It's more timing than anything else," DeCamillis said about Podlesh. "I think he just got off on timing, so we'll keep working at it."
Nevertheless, the Bears have prepared for the worst. They had six punters in Tuesday, including former Viking Chris Kluwe and two punters who kicked for DeCamillis in Dallas, Brian Moorman and Mat McBriar.
"I mean you bring guys in during the year all the time," DeCamillis said. "It just one of those things that it happened to be then."
Podlesh knew the message before it was even delivered.
"They notified me, which I was appreciative of that, just to let me know -- not that it would have changed my thought process on anything," he said. "I kind of understood after what I put out there on the field in Detroit that I basically said to myself (then) 'I wouldn't be surprised if they were going to look at what was out on the market.' "
If the message needed to be reinforced, coach Marc Trestman did it.
"We've brought people in (to work out) almost every week since we've been here," he said. "But I don't think Adam needs anybody to come in to know that the next week he's got to punt better.
"We've all got to play better."
The Bears have given up 114 points this year, so their defense isn't in the same class as in years past. Last year it took seven games before they allowed 114 points.
Linebacker Lance Briggs underscored the gravity of the situation facing the Bears defense this week, and why Podlesh's punting and special teams coverage will be so critical against the NFL's second-ranked passing offense Sunday.
"To me it's kind of disgusting to see 40 points up on the scoreboard regardless of what went on and how it went up there," he said.
"Defensively, we haven't prevented a team from scoring fewer than 20 points this year yet, and that's not like us," he said referring to the fact that the lowest score against the Bears this year was 21 points (Cincinnati).
They need all the help they can get from special teams, and also from Jay Cutler and the offense.
"We have to fight to keep (New Orleans' offense) off the field as much as possible," Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod said. "We have to play an all-around balanced game. We have to play together in all three phases, the offense, defense and special teams."