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After Further Review

Bears defense has 'stepped up in a lot of ways'


Coach Matt Eberflus praised the Bears defense Tuesday, two days after the unit delivered another strong performance in a 27-16 win over the Cardinals.

After mustering 10 sacks and nine takeaways during a 2-7 start, the Bears have generated 17 sacks and 14 takeaways in winning four of their last six games. In addition, they've allowed 10, 13, 20 and 16 points in winning three of their last four contests after permitting an average of 26.9 points over their first nine games.

"They've stepped up in a lot of ways," Eberflus said.

"Really, it's just buying into the system, buying into our system that has a long history. It's been around this league for a long time. The guys understand the core principles, they understand what it takes to play their positions and they're doing a really good job of rushing and covering, cover and rush, really playing off each other that way. And understanding where the spots are to make their plays in the defense. That's why you see guys who are comfortable are playing fast and they're playing physical and it's fun to watch when it gets to that point."

True pros

While the arrival of star pass rusher Montez Sweat has fueled the defense's resurgence, several other individuals have delivered key contributions.

That includes a pair of experienced defensive backs in seventh-year safety Eddie Jackson and fourth-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson.

"Both have been great," Eberflus said. "True pros. Have done everything we asked them to. Have helped the young guys. Have both risen. Eddie had a really great year last year. He's having a solid consistent year this year. Jaylon has really come on as of late. I'm excited for both of those guys.

"They are both so smart when it comes to football. They are high intelligence guys. That certainly helps our young players, our first- and second-year players, to be able to develop, understanding the game of football, and those guys have been a big part of that."

Check out the best images—taken by Bears photographers—from Sunday's 27-16 victory over the Cardinals at Soldier Field.

Injury update

Left guard Teven Jenkins remains in concussion protocol. Jenkins sustained the injury Dec. 17 in Cleveland and sat out Sunday's win over the Cardinals.

More will be known about the knee injury that sidelined tight end Cole Kmet for the second half versus Arizona on Wednesday when the Bears return to the practice field and release an injury report.

"We'll see where that goes in terms of his movement tomorrow," Eberflus said. 

Before exiting Sunday's game at halftime, Kmet caught four passes for a career-high 107 yards, including a career-long 53-yard reception from Justin Fields.

"That was a nice play by Justin," Eberflus said, "evading the rush there, working out of the pocket and then finding Cole all the way down the field, and Cole made an awesome play. Cole played awesome when he was in there. He was gutting it out. Blocking well. He has had a really good season."

Improvement needed

Eberflus acknowledged that ranking 27th in the NFL in passing offense at an average of 182.6 yards per game isn't good enough.

"If it's at 27, it's not where it needs to be," he said. "We've just got to continue to work on that. [We've] got to get the downfield, explosive throws. How you score in the NFL is to get explosive passes and explosive runs. That's what you need to do.

"I felt we did a really good job getting those explosive runs on Sunday. [Khalil] Herbert did a heck of a job running the ball. I thought the line did a really good job of that, but we've got to get some of those explosive passes. We had a few, but we need to get more."

Eberflus also conceded that the Bears must improve another aspect of their offense.

"We have to do a better job with short yardage, there's no question about that," he said. "You have to have a staple, something that you go to. It's usually the sneak or the wedge or the rugby, whatever you're calling that, the Philadelphia play. We've done that a couple times, but we need to be more effective at that because you need something like that where you can always go to that, and then you need some stuff that hits the perimeter because teams will load up inside there on you, pack everybody inside and leave themselves vulnerable on the outside.

"We certainly have that in our arsenal too. But it just comes down to execution. It comes down to the guys executing the push play better and also the perimeter plays better."

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