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Bengals film room: Predictable defense sees predictable results against Bears

The Bears exploded for almost 500 yards against a Bengals defense that was missing a handful of key starters. Unfortunately, the Bengals’ poor performance wasn’t only due to those injuries.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals dropped a tough one at home against the struggling Bears, and did so while giving up about 500 yards and getting handled both on the ground and through the air. It was a complete debacle for Cincinnati that had their hopefully soon-to-be former head coach, Marvin Lewis, “at a loss for words”.

Chicago was coming off a really bad loss to the 49ers the previous week, but looked formidable in Paul Brown Stadium, gaining almost 100 more yards than in any other game they played this season.

Lewis said that his team had a lot of new faces on defense, as they were missing starters like Dre Kirkpatrick, Shawn Williams, Adam Jones, Nick Vigil and their leader, Vontaze Burfict. Geno Atkins was limited to less than 20 percent of the snaps, too, with a toe injury. But that alone can’t explain how poorly the Bengals’ D fared against the worst offense in the NFL. We went to the tape to find out more.

Defense is predictable

This is an issue that has troubled me and anyone that has watched this team all season long. The Bengals are becoming easier to attack because opposing coaches and quarterbacks are ready and know where the soft spots will be. Cincinnati could have tried to spice things up a little bit - just like they did in the first half last week against Pittsburgh - but Chicago’s quarterback Mitchell Trubisky kept finding his tight ends wide open between zones.

When the pocket is clean, and it is more often than not when you keep rushing only four, any quarterback can complete a pass.

It’s safe to say that missing both Burfict and Vigil, the team’s two nickel backs, didn’t help much, but Trubisky finished with 25 completions on 32 attempts for 271 yards. It was only the second time in his young NFL career that the Ohio native completed more than 60 percent of his throws.

How did he do it? The Bears attacked the Bengals’ zone defense horizontally, giving Trubisky easy reads down the middle and taking advantage of Kevin Minter and Vincent Rey on drag routes. That, coupled with a clean pocket, is always money in the bank.

Injuries took a toll, to an extent

Missing Atkins, Vigil and Burfict was probably big for Paul Guenther’s unit, but they weren’t playing the Patriots. The secondary was fine without Kirkpatrick, Jones and Williams, and in fact allowed William Jackson III to shine quite a bit.

Jordan Evans, the rookie, is still very green and made a costly mistake on Sunday, for the second week in a row. He thought the Bengals were playing zone when they were in cover 1.

Mistakes are going to happen for a rookie like Evans who is getting thrown into the mix late in the season. Though, with that said, we’d rather see him out there gaining experience than see a veteran at this point in a lost season.

Both Minter and Rey had equally poor performances and they’re neither new or rookies. Having to play one or two at the same time is a recipe for disaster for Cincinnati right now, and that is why Burfict’s absence hurt so much.

Minter was problematic all day, and he struggled mightily against the run, which supposedly was his calling card. He was tentative every time the Bears ran the ball and easily taken away by the fullback or an offensive lineman, when I suspect his role is more in line with Rey Maualuga’s when he was with the Bengals. Then, when he finally tried to wreak havoc inside he gave up his gap trying to cut underneath when he was never going to be able to make a play.

The Bengals are lucky they only signed him for one year. The Cardinals chose the aging Karlos Dansby over him for a reason. Don’t make the same mistake twice.

Rey simply didn’t help his team enough on Sunday.

The Bengals coaches could have been more aggressive to take some pressure off their front seven, but they again went with the same gameplan we’ve seen all season long; just hoping their guys would execute better every time.

And as has been the case all season long, too, the opposing running game opened up their passing game and made Trubisky look like the second coming of Aaron Rodgers.

We’re getting used to this and it doesn’t look good. On offense, many have correctly said that the staff isn’t putting their receivers in the best position to succeed. We can make a case that the Bengals are not doing much to help their players on defense either.