The Bears defense has been among the best in the NFL throughout the season. So it came as quite a shock when the unit performed so poorly last Sunday night in Green Bay.
After allowing only one or two touchdowns in nine of the first 10 games this year, the defense permitted five TDs in a 41-25 loss to the Packers, including Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes on Green Bay's first three possessions to cap lengthy drives of 75, 75 and 80 yards.
"Give Aaron Rodgers a lot of credit," veteran safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. said Thursday. "But no quarterback, no offense in the National Football League should be able to have their way and impose their will like they did on us in front of a national audience.
"They 'big-brothered' us. It was just like my big brother used to do to me when I was 12, 11, before I got bigger than him. It was just something that I've never seen before done to this defense."
The Bears yielded five TDs on seven Green Bay possessions, not counting two drives that ended both halves. They also failed to record a sack or takeaway and were gashed for a season-high 182 yards rushing.
Perhaps the only positive that came from the defense's drubbing at Lambeau Field is that it has fueled an insatiable desire to rebound.
"It's a lot of motivation," Gipson said. "We were on a big stage … everybody is watching. For us to go out there and lay an egg, I think it was embarrassing for us on so many levels. So I think that the bounce back is so real and I think that's the beautiful thing about football. You get to erase the mistakes that you made seven days ago, a week later to go out there and reinvent yourself and get that taste out of our mouth."
"You know what the rivalry means," said safety Eddie Jackson. "We feel like we got embarrassed on national TV. Right now we've got that as fuel to our fire. We just can't wait until Sunday. That's all we've been focused on is Detroit, how we're going to bounce back, what we need to do and correct little things."
The morning after the Packers game, coach Matt Nagy garnered national attention when he offered pointed criticism of the defense's performance during his video press conference, telling reporters "that can't happen, and our defensive guys know that," and "that's not who our defense is."
Nagy dropped into a defensive meeting Wednesday to clarify his comments. But players who spoke to the media this week didn't feel it was necessary for their head coach to explain himself.
"I think that coach Nagy, being the stand-up guy that he is, wanted people to understand that, 'Hey, in no way, shape or form was I pointing the finger at nobody,'" Gipson said. "He's never been that type of guy, he's never pointed the finger in no way. That's not who he is. I think he just wanted to clear the air for any type of confusion.
"We're all grown men in here and the biggest thing for us as players and professional athletes is we've got to hold ourselves accountable," Gipson said. "No matter what's going on on the offensive side of the ball, we pride ourselves on being able to do a certain job and hold ourselves to a standard, and we just didn't do that.
"[Nagy] holds everybody accountable, and when you see the guys that we have on defense, these things should not happen. It's not a he's-calling-out-the-defense kind of thing; it's just one of the things where he expects us to play better, and it was flat-out embarrassing on our behalf for sure."
“We feel like we got embarrassed on national TV. Right now we’ve got that as fuel to our fire.” Bears safety Eddie Jackson
Bears players and coaches did take issue, however, with a comment that NBC analyst Tony Dungy made Sunday night after Jamaal Williams' 13-yard touchdown run had given the Packers a 41-10 lead late in the third quarter. Watching a replay of the TD, Dungy said: "This is the Bears defense basically giving up."
"Our guys never give up," said defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. "I'll fight anybody tooth and nail on that. And I love Tony. I have great respect for Tony. But I don't pay attention to any of that stuff. Our guys don't ever quit. They would never give up."
"That's unfortunate for somebody to put that out there on us," Gipson said, "because I feel like at the end of the day, we didn't play our best performance—let's be honest, I think everybody can attest to that—but at the same time, I wouldn't say it's guys quitting. It's not a situation where guys are quitting. It's just one of those things where everything went right for them and nothing was going right for us, and they came out there and they 100 percent handed it to us.
"But when you talk about quitting, that's an effort, that's a pride thing. That's a mental thing. And I don't think that no guy in here quit. Did guys not play their best game? Of course; I wouldn't deny that. But to say quitting, that's a tough term to say about this defense. We've got a bunch of dogs out there who will fight to the end."