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Quick hits: Pagano looking for defense to play up to standard


After going nearly two years without allowing a running back to gain 100 yards in regulation, the Bears have allowed it in back-to-back weeks.

Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano is aware that the defense hasn't looked quite as dominant since holding the Minnesota Vikings to six points last month.

"Certainly, the standard is the standard," said Pagano. "We have played to that standard at times. I think it's just consistency. Again, you look at the first half of the last game — we played well, and we played consistent. Now we've got to do it for 60 minutes."

The Bears were stout against the run in the first half against the Saints, holding them to 33 yards on 12 attempts. However, the Saints gained 118 yards on the ground in the second half as they built an insurmountable lead.

Pagano believes that little mistakes cost the Bears throughout the game, usually by a player trying to do too much.

"Sometimes you can press," said Pagano, "and you can try to, 'Hey, I've gotta do something special,' to go make a play and get a turnover or do this and that, flip the field, whatever that is, and you can't do that. You've gotta stay steady and stick to the process and do your job, and that's it. It's no different for me or anybody else."

While some of the defensive decline began after losing Akiem Hicks to an elbow injury, Pagano believes that the defensive line will find its stride in the absence of the Pro Bowl defensive tackle.

"Whoever goes in there," said Pagano, "whether it's Nick [Williams] or Roy [Robertson-Harris], Bilal [Nichols], Eddie [Goldman], they are going to get the job done, you know? And so nobody is going to be perfect on every snap. Would we love to have Akiem [Hicks] back? Yeah. We don't have him, so it's next man up. "

In victory and defeat: Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich addressed the pressure being placed on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky by paraphrasing John F. Kennedy (and, indirectly, Benito Mussolini's son-in-law Galeazzo Ciano).

"Victory has many fathers, but defeat is an orphan," Helfrich said.

Helfrich mentioned the way that the loss to the Green Bay Packers in the season opener threw the team for a loop and ignited a crisis in confidence that the team has worked to overcome.

"It's not just Mitch," said Helfrich. "He's the quarterback, and certainly, there's other guys at different positions that have the same sensitivity to quote-unquote failure or letting their teammates down and all those things."

For the past few days, Helfrich has emphasized "making lay-ups" or executing the most straightforward plays to build momentum.

"It's a troubleshooting type of scenario," said Helfrich. "Sometimes it's the quarterback; sometimes it's the coach, sometimes it's the O across from your X was either better or different or maybe asking him to do something that they're not capable of."

To Helfrich, it all comes down to execution. He emphasized that the team has shown more consistency during practice and that the challenge now was to translate that success into games.

"There's no play that goes in that didn't work in practice," said Helfrich. "That doesn't happen. You don't go 'hey, it might work on gameday type of scenario.' I think that's the routine plays; we just have to make. Our guys have battled through this and played with confidence for the most part, but it, for whatever reason, hasn't shown up consistently enough. But it will. It will."

Fixing the punt: The Bears punt team had their roughest performance yet: one blocked, one tipped, and one returned for a touchdown (but called back).

Special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor credited the first blocked punt, which resulted in a safety, to the New Orleans Saints' scheme, which exploited an unforeseen weakness.

"They did a nice job there," said Tabor. "We had a communication issue, I'll put that on myself. I own it. We've got to fix that and get that corrected."

Tabor credited in-game adjustments to the prevention of another blocked kick. Though a second punt was tipped, contact was weak enough that it did not prove to be disastrous.

"You know they came back with that another time," said Tabor, "and we had shortened it up there, so that was better, but that can't happen, and obviously, that's a big dagger, especially at the beginning of the game."

After the safety, Tabor told his players to think of the play as similar to giving up a two-run homer in baseball: unfortunate but surmountable.

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