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Heyward: 'We gotta answer for it'

Posted Sep 28, 2017

Run defense looks to bounce back against Baltimore.

The run defense against the Bears was lamentable in its ineffectiveness.

But the mistakes are correctable, the Steelers maintain, as they get ready for the Ravens.

“We didn’t get off blocks enough in that overtime,” defensive end Cam Heyward complained after the Bears had rushed for 220 yards, including 74 on four extra-session snaps, in a 23-17 overtime triumph over the Steelers on Sunday. “They got to our edges.”

Chicago’s rush to victory included six runs of at least 15 yards, the Steelers’ standard for a long play in the ground game. Three of those occurred in succession on the last three plays of overtime _ Tarik Cohen for 36 yards, Jordan Howard for 18 and Howard for 19 on the game-winning touchdown.

“There were some tackles missed on some of those breakout plays,” head coach Mike Tomlin assessed on Tuesday. “Sometimes good, open-grass tackling covers up a lot of things.”

Among those were safety J.J. Wilcox, safety Mike Mitchell and linebacker Vince Williams on Cohen’s 36-yard burst.

“There’s going to be a hole or two from time to time, particularly when you’re as well prepared as those guys, and they were,” Tomlin said. “Usually, those plays are minimized with good tackling. Those are the 6- to 8- to 11-yard gains that you might see in the running game from time to time. Really, our biggest issue in those instances, there were several of those instances, we weren’t good tacklers. Those holes became field-flipping plays.

“So it was a combination of us (needing to be) more solid on the perimeter at times, good schematics by them, and when those two things occurred we didn’t do a good job of tackling.”

Of the Bears’ 220 rushing yards, 114 were gained on 20 first-half carries (5.7 per attempt).

But Chicago managed just 32 rushing yards on 14 carries in the third and fourth quarters (2.3 per carry).

“We had issues at times stopping the run in the first half,” Tomlin said. “We feel like we got those things settled down, and really that was a catalyst for us working our way back into the football game largely in the second half. We minimized the run, we got some turnovers, we provided the short field, we got back in the game.”

In overtime, not getting into gaps was a problem along with missed tackles.

The Bears gained 1 yard on first down (a Howard cutback that was swallowed up by defensive lineman Tyson Alualu).

But inside linebacker Ryan Shazier fell down after spinning off a block by offensive tackle Bobby Massie on Cohen’s 36-yard run and was beaten to the hole after Howard cut back in the backfield on the 19-yard touchdown (Shazier wasn’t blocked on the play).

Unblocked cornerback Artie Burns over-ran the hole on the 18-yard run that preceded Howard’s touchdown. Howard cut inside of tight end Dion Sims’ block of outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo and Burns fell down while trying to compensate after over-pursuing the play.

The Bears got to the edge in overtime and eventually they got into the end zone.   

“They keep testing it,” Heyward said. “It might not work the first or second time but you have gap integrity every single time.”

Especially in Baltimore after what happened in Chicago.

“We’re going to get challenged with the same stuff,” Heyward said. “Now we gotta answer for it.

“We look forward to doing that.”