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After Further Review

Bears defense rose to occasion in crunch time


The Bears lost the turnover battle 5-0 Sunday in New Orleans but still had a chance to tie the game thanks to a stifling performance by their defense down the stretch.

After the Saints took a 24-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Bears held New Orleans scoreless on three possessions that started at the Chicago 38, 46 and 36.

"We just focused on going out there and playing hard, doing our job and just helping the offense," defensive tackle Andrew Billings said Monday, one day after the Bears' 24-17 loss. "You know, sometimes it's just what a defense has to do."

The unit's first stop came when Billings and linebacker T.J. Edwards teamed up to stuff quarterback Derek Carr for no gain on a fourth-and-1 sneak at the Bears' 17 with 7:29 remaining in the game.

"We had a sneak call," Billings said. "He was under center, so we know they're trying to run the quarterback sneak. Question was what 'A' gap was he trying to hit. Me and Justin [Jones] did a good job filling in those A gaps and guys came over the top and stopped.

"It's definitely a pride thing. Fourth-and-1 is hard. It's almost automatic for the offense, especially now they've got plays and they've got guys pushing from behind. That's a huge thing. That's what defense is all about, and we live for that."

Missed opportunities: While the defense kept the Bears within one score, an offense that was efficient through the first three quarters mustered just 14 yards on 13 plays and one first down on its final four possessions that ended with three turnovers and a punt.

"Last night really comes down to our fourth quarter and the [turnovers] that we had in the fourth quarter," Eberflus said. "Those things always come down to a couple things. Obviously, decision-making by the quarterback, that's certainly one of them. And then the receivers coming back to the football, knocking the ball down, that's always an important factor there, and being friendly for the quarterback."

Making his third straight start in place of the injured Justin Fields, Tyson Bagent completed 15 of 19 passes for 201 yards with two TDs and one interception through the first three quarters. But the undrafted rookie connected on only 3 of 11 passes for 19 yards with two interceptions in the fourth period.

New addition: Montez Sweat played 41 of 62 plays (65%) on defense in his Bears debut Sunday, primarily in passing situations. The fifth-year pro was credited with two tackles, one pass breakup and a team-high four quarterback pressures.

The Bears acquired Sweat from the Commanders last Tuesday and signed him to a four-year extension through the 2027 season Saturday.

"I think he did great," Billings said. "He went out there and we communicated. He just got here, so there's a lot he has to catch up on, but I think we communicated. We got everything settled before the snap and I think he fits right in."

The attention that Sweat no doubt will draw from opposing offenses figures to benefit his fellow defensive linemen.

"I think he made it available for everybody to get one-on-ones," Billings said. "I think now we have a full threat on this line and it's really going to help out as far as offensive linemen just not focusing on one player each snap."

After allowing the Saints to convert 6-of-7 third downs in the first half, the Bears held New Orleans to 1-of-7 on third in the second half.

"I thought our rushers were really rushing well and got some good pressures … and made [Derek Carr] force the ball on some of those third downs a little bit earlier than he wanted to, and certainly 'Tez was a part of that," Eberflus said. "He had a few of those [pressures]. It's going to be really big for us going forward, and credit to him. Shoot, he was here for what, four days, maybe before he got out there on the football field and learned a new language so-to-speak in terms of terms and really functioned well in that environment and for our football team."

Braxton back: After missing the previous six games with a neck injury, left tackle Braxton Jones started Sunday's contest and played 52 of 68 snaps (76%), sharing time with Larry Borom.

"He was good," Eberflus said. "But typically when you get a guy that comes back, there's a little bit of an endurance [issue] sometimes, and we felt that a little bit. He rotated in there and did a nice job. He was really solid in there for the first time coming back—as they say, knocking off the rust off a little bit—and he'll continue to do that and we'll talk about the rotation as we get closer to the game."

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