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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Mark Potash

Struggling Bears defense sees ‘great opportunity’ vs. Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes

The Bears got close to Baker Mayfield several times, but could not sack him in a 27-17 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Twelve straight losses? Jaylon Johnson is tired of this, too. 

“Hell yeah,” the Bears cornerback said after a 27-17 loss to the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. “That’s what I think about consistently. I’ve been here for a good many [years] now. Just going through the same things; the same letdowns; the same post-game speeches, and for me as a competitor, I’m tired of that [stuff].”

Johnson, in his fourth year in the NFL since the Bears drafted him in the second round (50th overall) in 2020, was speaking out of frustration more than anger. He’s 17-35 in his Bears career and still believes the rebuilding Bears have what it takes to win. But as a veteran player, he has a finer appreciation for the intangible qualities that make that happen. Qualities this team lacks. 

“This was a very, very winnable game,” Johnson said. “And I think we’re tired of shooting ourselves in the foot. We’re tired of not capitalizing. The biggest thing for us, being a young team, we’ve got to learn how to win … I think that’s a very important element that people don’t really take in.

“It’s not about having good players all the time. It’s not about the scheme. It’s learning how to win — when to step up; when to be on your assignments; the plays in the first quarter aren’t the same as in the fourth quarter. It’s really being able to come together and execute together at a high level.” 

Johnson and the rest of the Bears defense are going to have learn quickly. After allowing 437 yards against Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers — with no sacks and no takeaways — the Bears’ defense will face the toughest task there is, against two-time NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

Mahomes and the Chiefs are off to a relatively slow start, with tight end Travis Kelce recovering from a hyperextended knee and without JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mahomes’ top wide receiver last year who signed with the Patriots in free agency. 

So this might be a good time to catch the Chiefs, or perhaps Mahomes is just warming up. With Kelce (four receptions, 26 yards, one touchdown) playing for the first time this season, Mahomes He threw for 305 yards in a 17-9 victory over the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday. He had 226 passing yards and two touchdowns in a season-opening loss to the Lions at Arrowhead without Kelce. 

So this might be a better time to be catching the Chiefs. Or they could be just warming up. Either way, it’s a bigger challenge for the Bears’ defense than facing the Packers’ Jordan Love (123.2 passer rating vs. the Bears) or Mayfield (114.5 rating vs. the Bears).

 “It’s a great opportunity,” Johnson said. “[They’ve] got the best player in the league in Patrick Mahomes and not too far behind him in Travis Kelce. So I’m definitely looking forward to that matchup. We’ve got to try to get a W in Arrowhead.” 

The Bears’ defense is meeting few if any standards of Matt Eberflus’ H.I.T.S. principle in the first two games. They’ve allowed an average of 383 yards, with one sack and no takeaways in two games. They’ve allowed 19-of-34 third/fourth down conversions (58.9%), including touchdowns on third-and-14 against the Buccaneers and fourth-and-three against the Packers.

But even in defeat Sunday, the Bears were buoyed by a strong fourth quarter against the Buccaneers — forcing three consecutive punts to give Justin Fields and the offense an ill-fated chance to win the game.

“The guys are excited about moving forward to Kansas City,” Eberflus said. “Their eyes are forward. They’re working hard. Al wee got is the practice field. Then … we play a good opponent, the defending champs, and we’re excited about it. 

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