Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was on the defensive Monday, a day after the Carolina Panthers dropped another close game despite a strong showing from his group.
The Panthers held Chicago to 210 yards, forced three turnovers and sacked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler six times and still lost 23-22 after the Bears drove for a game-winning field goal as time expired.
It was the fifth consecutive loss for the Panthers (1-6), with the last four decided by five points or fewer.
For the third week in a row and fourth time this season, the Panthers defense gave up two touchdowns or fewer each time in a losing effort.
Two hundred ten total yards, six sacks, three takeaways, in my history in the NFL you win those games, said McDermott, the former Philadelphia defensive coordinator. And thats why its gut-wrenching to see the performance defensively that those guys put on the field. To not come away with a win is tough for the third week in a row.
McDermotts decision to stay in a soft, cover-2 defense for the Bears final drive has been questioned, including a few not-so-subtle comments from a couple of his defensive backs.
Cutler, who had a miserable first half when he was sacked six times, completed 6 of 7 passes on the final drive, including four to Brandon Marshall on slant routes.
They were playing one coverage and we just kept hitting them and hitting them and hitting them, Cutler said. Thats pretty much it.
On the slant patterns, rookie cornerback Josh Norman was giving the outside receiver a cushion of 6 to 9 yards, and the Panthers didnt adjust.
Obviously, we need to tighten up the coverage there and win that situation the next time it comes up, McDermott said.
During their two-minute drill at the end of the first half, the Bears sent receivers on deep routes as Cutler took seven-step drops in the pocket. The Panthers sacked him twice on that drive, with defensive end Charles Johnson forcing and recovering a Cutler fumble on second-and-long.
Coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers didnt want a receiver to get behind the secondary, as Atlantas Roddy White did against free safety Haruki Nakamura for a 59-yard catch on the Falcons game-winning drive in Week 4.
For what they were doing, the defense we were in gave us the best opportunity for what they could potentially do, Rivera said. Would we like to tighten the coverage up? Yes. Wed like to see the corners come up a little bit more, see the safeties come down a little closer.
Having burned two timeouts earlier in the half, the Panthers elected not to use their final timeout to regroup while the Bears were driving.
Theres a lot of things going on over the headsets in those situations. So yeah, those (discussions about a timeout) were all part of the conversation, McDermott said. Weve got to handle that better next time.
Panthers defensive tackle Dwan Edwards sprained his left ankle in the second half and was not in for the Bears final drive. But Edwards said its easy in hindsight to say what the Panthers should have done.
But in some parts of the game youre in that Catch-22, Edwards said. You dont want them to throw the ball over your head, kind of like Atlanta. I guess its finding that balance and figuring out a way to mix it up.
Despite losing starting cornerback Chris Gamble and Pro Bowl linebacker Jon Beason to season-ending injuries, the defense has kept the Panthers in games.
Carolina had a 2-to-1 edge in total yardage against the Bears, and held Matt Forte to 70 yards rushing on 15 carries. Forte rushed for 205 and 166 yards in his previous two games against the Panthers.
But after harassing Cutler throughout the first half, the Panthers did not sack him in the second half. Rivera said the Bears went to more three- and five-step drops with Cutler to neutralize the Panthers pass rush.
McDermott bristled when asked about the Bears second-half adjustments.
I dont want to discredit them. But this is the NFL. If you can hold a team to 210 yards, you win the dang game. Bottom line, McDermott said. Im not sure what adjustments they made. If they did, I didnt see them.
McDermotts injury-plagued defense struggled in 2011, finishing 28th in the league. The Panthers are 15th this season, allowing 343.9 yards a game.
But there has been little to show for it.
Its frustrating because defensively I feel like weve improved by leaps and bounds over last year, McDermott said. Is there more to do? Yeah, theres more to do. Youve got to look at yourself and say, What else can we do? Well, we win the game. We win the darn game.