Kreutz: Why Bears defense is so good in the red zone originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
If you had to boil down the Bears’ success to start the season, you’d probably point to their defense (what else is new?). Through six weeks they’ve only surrendered eight touchdowns and are holding opponents to just over 19 points a game. The Bears leaned on that strength again on Sunday, and had the Football Aftershow team gushing specifically about the secondary.
“That’s why the red zone is so hard against this defense,” said Olin Kreutz. “In the red zone, you’re looking for matchups. So you go across the line and you say, I’m not gonna run at Hicks and I’m not gonna run at Mack, and there’s Roquan Smith. Then, there’s Eddie Jackson, who you could argue is the best free safety in the game, and Tashaun Gipson, and Kyle Fuller, and Jaylon Johnson… it moves those safeties down. Now they work together so well in that red zone.”
“Closing windows,” added Lance Briggs.
“As an offensive guy, when I look and go, ‘Ok, what am I going to run against this defense? Where do I attack them?’ I really don’t know to tell you the truth,” Kreutz said.
“You saw today, if you’re going to go after this defense, you’re going to go after Johnson,” Alex Brown said. “That’s what they did. That’s what people are going to do, because there’s nowhere else you’re going to go. You’re not going to mess with Fuller. You’re not going to mess with Fuller on the other side, are you crazy?”
“Jaylon’s a young guy,” Briggs said. “It’s funny because I feel some Gary Moeller, some Gary Moellerisms in his techniques.”
Moeller was the Bears’ linebackers coach in 2002 and 2003, and coached Briggs for one season.
“He’s got some very sneaky techniques, some older techniques that I learned when I was a rookie,” Briggs said while miming wrapping up a would-be receiver. “But they don’t work so well. You have good position, good body position. Just use your body position and allow yourself to not have the flags.”
Briggs is referring to a play where Johnson had his man beat, but locked up his arm to further prevent the receiver from catching the ball. He drew a pass interference when he likely didn’t need to, the ball went on the Bears’ one-yard line and the Panthers scored a touchdown one play later.
Still, the guys contend Johnson has had an impressive rookie season as a starter from Week 1. He’s been targeted often, and often comes up with big plays.
But Kreutz thinks another player who isn’t a household name in Chicago yet has also come through with big plays for the Bears.
“I think an underrated signing… is Tashaun Gipson,” Kreutz said. “I think he was signed for the minimum also. He has been really really good in that secondary next to Eddie Jackson.”
Gipson signed a one-year deal worth just over $1 million, according to Spotrac. For that relatively small investment the Bears have already gotten a return of two interceptions and 27 tackles.
So is this pass defense enough to put the Bears in a position to win? It’s played out that way recently. But with the Rams, Saints and Titans coming up on the schedule, the Bears will face their toughest challenges yet.