The Chicago Bears took advantage of a Cincinnati defense depleted by injury, but the Bengals won’t use their personnel changes as an excuse.
After combining for 287 total yards of offense over their last two games, the Bears rolled to a season-high 482 yards in a 33-7 win over the short-handed Bengals on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
Cincinnati was missing starting linebackers Vontaze Burfict (concussion) and Nick Vigil (ankle) and starting defensive backs Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion), Shawn Williams (hamstring) and Adam Jones, who went on injured reserved Saturday with a groin injury.
“We didn’t execute the game plan,” defensive end Carlos Dunlap said. “I know there are a lot of young guys in (the game), but that’s an excuse, and we don’t use excuses around here.”
The Bears especially seemed to be exploiting the middle of the defense, where the Bengals had just four linebackers available, including two rookies in Jordan Evans and Carl Lawson. Veteran Vincent Rey was just coming back from a hamstring injury that sidelined him the last two games, and Evans had mainly been limited to special teams before Rey’s injury.
Evans finished with a team-high 10 tackles, Rey added six, Kevin Minter, who has started six games, had two tackles and Lawson didn’t have any tackles, but there were several missed tackles, too.
“We gave them some stuff,” Evans said. “They beat us. I’ve personally got to go back and look at the mistakes and make sure they don’t happen again. They took what we gave them, and they took full advantage of it.”
Bears rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky completed 25 of 32 passes for 271 yards and one touchdown, and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis noted “there were a lot” of receivers open in the middle of the field.
“Some new people, some moving parts and, you know, it was not very good,” Lewis said.
Lewis said he couldn’t explain the missed tackles, but emphasized that players have to get off the blocks better. Jordan Howard finished with a game-high 147 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and Kendall Wright led Chicago’s receivers with 107 yards on 10 catches on 11 targets.
“We were staying glued to them and they were kind of grabbing us — we weren’t separating,” Lewis said. “When we separated, they got called for a couple penalties. We didn’t separate early on, so we just expected it to happen.”
Evans said the lack of time playing together as a group in the linebacking corps shouldn’t have been a factor, and having so many young guys in the back end of the defense also isn’t an excuse.
He felt the defense’s struggles were more of a mental lapse.
“You’ve just got to try to make plays and stop them,” Evans said. “Regardless of the situation someone has to step up and make a play. Especially when momentum switches after maybe a turnover or they’ve been running the ball, you’ve just got to step up and make a play.”