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Eberflus IDs areas of improvement on defense | Quick Hits

Bears coach Matt Eberflus
Bears coach Matt Eberflus

Over the final four games of the season, Bears coach Matt Eberflus wants to see the defense generate more takeaways and improve on third down and against the run.

The Bears have failed to produce a takeaway in four of their last five games, including their last two contests against the Jets and Packers. They have two takeaways in their last five games after producing 13 in their first eight games.

"What I want to see really is the turnovers," Eberflus said. "We want that to increase because obviously we're not where we want to be. We have set that goal and we want to make sure we're doing a good job of that. We always want to win the ball."

It's not going to be easy to force turnovers Sunday when the Bears host the Eagles, who have a league-low 10 giveaways and lead the NFL with a plus-24 turnover ratio.

The Bears defense ranks last in the NFL in third-down efficiency, allowing opponents to convert on 48.7 percent of their chances (75 of 154). A key factor in the inability to get off the field has been a stagnant pass rush that has produced a league-low 16 sacks.

"We've fallen short a little bit obviously on third-down defense," Eberflus said. "So, we want to have to win our one-on-ones, which entails your pass rush, so we have to do a really good job with that as well."

The Bears run defense ranks 27th in the NFL, permitting an average of 146.3 yards per game. The unit has allowed more yards over each of its last five games from 77 to 95 to 149 to 158 to 175.

When Eberflus was Colts defensive coordinator from 2018-21, Indianapolis' run defense ranked eighth, seventh, second and 10th.

"We've historically been a really good run defense—top-10 in run defense and sometimes top-five and sometimes No. 1," Eberflus said. "So that has to improve. That just comes down to technique, fundamentals, our guys doing their job with intensity."

Tough road ahead

The Bears have lost six straight games and have been eliminated from playoff contention, but Eberflus isn't concerned about players losing their focus.

"You challenge the guys," he said. "You challenge them, and I know the character of the room. We have great character. We have great players in terms of high character, and those guys love to be challenged."

This week's task is a difficult one, preparing for an Eagles team that boasts the NFL's best record (12-1) and leads the league in scoring (29.7 points per game). After that, the Bears will host the Bills (10-3), visit the Lions (6-7) and host the Vikings (10-3).

"This is a big challenge for us," Eberflus said. "The guys are on it. You micro it down to the individual, so you challenge them that way and then you put it to the unit. So everybody's got their goals, what they want to accomplish the next four games, and certainly playing these opponents that we're playing in these last four games is certainly a big challenge. I think the guys are up to the challenge."

The Bears returned to practice Wednesday afternoon as they continue preparing for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Loss of a legend

Eberflus offered his deepest sympathies to the family of Mike Leach, a popular college football coach who passed away Monday night at the age of 61.

Leach, who was in his third season as Mississippi State's coach, helped revolutionize college football with his "Air Raid" offense, including a stint at Texas Tech from 2000-09. As defensive coordinator at Missouri from 2001-08, Eberflus faced Leach in Big-12 play, beginning in 2002 with a 52-38 loss.

"He made me better," Eberflus said. "The first time we played him, he beat us pretty good. We got a chance to play him three or four more times after that during the course of my career there. What did I learn from that? How to defend the spread. How to defend that tempo style. I became a better coach by going against him. I really appreciate him for that."

Injury report

In addition to quarterback Justin Fields, who missed Wednesday’s practice with an illness, other Bears who sat out were receiver Chase Claypool (knee) and tight end Trevon Wesco (calf).

Rookie defensive backs Kyler Gordon (concussion) and Jaquan Brisker (concussion), receiver N'Keal Harry (back) and cornerback Kindle Vildor (ankle) were all full participants.

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