SEATTLE – It was a small sample size, but the Bears' No. 1 defense performed well in Thursday night's 27-11 preseason win over the Seahawks, forcing three-and-outs on its only two drives.
"The first team D played well," said defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, who recorded three tackles and one sack, "just getting off the field, a couple three-and-outs there. We played very complementary football."
Having spent the past four seasons playing on a Colts defense that was coordinated by Bears coach Matt Eberflus, Muhammad is familiar with the "HITS" principle that Eberflus has brought with him to Chicago. HITS is an acronym for "Hustle, Intensity, Takeaways and (playing) Smart."
The defense's performance Thursday night seemingly showed that players are buying into the HITS philosophy.
"We were out there hustling," Muhammad said, "doing what we're supposed to do and doing what we do in practice, just making it come to life."
Even after the starters exited, the Bears defense continued to excel. After holding the Chiefs scoreless on seven second-half possessions last Saturday, the unit didn't allow any points on the Seahawks' first 10 drives. Seattle didn't score until Jason Myers kicked a 27-yard field goal with :29 left in the third quarter to make the score 24-3.
On the Seahawks' first 10 possessions, the Bears allowed just five first downs, with six three-and-outs.
Asked how he can tell whether the defense is progressing, Eberflus said: "You'll see it first in practice: the execution of the calls, the speed. And then in the game, you want to see the hitting and the tackling. We want to be able to show the intensity of how we hit and how we knock things back and how we tackle. I thought that was solid today. That can always be better. Our strip attempts have to be better. We have to cause more fumbles, take away the ball more. We'll get after that this week."
Home sweet home
After missing the preseason opener with an undisclosed injury, second-round pick Kyler Gordon played his first NFL game against his hometown team.
The rookie cornerback, who grew up in the Seattle area and attended the University of Washington, had a large contingent of family and friends at Thursday night's game, many of whom were wearing his No. 6 Bears jersey.
"It was extremely exciting," Gordon said. "It was super nice to have everyone there supporting me, and seeing my family out there and my friends, I just really appreciated that."
Gordon said that he was "super-hyped" and "overly excited. But then I was also just locked in on my job and just ready to contribute."
"I really wasn't that nervous," he said. "I was more excited to be on the field and do something. Just having an opportunity to get out there, it was what I was waiting for."
Gordon played the nickel position Thursday night.
"The game flow was nice," he said. "I felt comfortable. It wasn't anything crazy; nothing too fast for me."
Eberflus said that Gordon will continue to work at both nickel and cornerback.
"We'll look at putting him on the outside and still keeping him on the inside," said the Bears coach. "We really like him on the inside, but certainly he's going to play on the outside too."
When the Chiefs' Corey Coleman muffed a punt late in last Saturday's preseason game at Soldier Field, Bears rookie safety Elijah Hicks came close to recovering the loose ball, but Coleman was able to secure it.
"Last week, the guy on Kansas City muffed a punt and I almost got it," Hicks said. "So I told myself no matter what I'm just going to keep running to the ball and I'm going to get the next one."
Hicks not only accomplished that objective Thursday night, but he scored a touchdown, recovering Cade Johnson's muffed punt on the goal line. The TD extended the Bears' lead to 17-0 with :20 left in the first half.
The ball slipped through Johnson's hands at the 10. A mad scramble followed, with the Bears' Davontae Harris nearly recovering it inside the 5 before Hicks scooped it up.
"The way we practice, the way we work is you've got to run, you've got to finish," Hicks said. "So regardless. I was going to run to the ball. That's just kind of what our mojo is."
Scoring a touchdown on special teams no doubt is a great way to enhance your chances of earning a roster spot. But the seventh-round pick from Cal knows that he must continue to produce.
"For me, it's just all about getting better," Hicks said. "That was a good play. [But] there are some plays I still need to clean up. I'm just going to keep on trying to get better and whatever happens from there happens. But I'm going to keep working on my game."