LAKE FOREST – It wouldn’t have totally made up for what happened, but the failure to do the simplest thing led to a forgettable start to the 2021 season for the Bears’ defense.
It was bad enough that Van Jefferson was able to get wide open down the field in the Bears’ secondary, but when he fell to the ground around the 15-yard line, that should have been it. But safeties Eddie Jackson and Tashaun Gipson Sr. both failed to put a hand on him, so the receiver alertly got up and ran into the endzone for the touchdown.
What happened? How did that simple play not get made?
It wasn’t until Tuesday that either safety discussed the play, and Gipson didn’t sugarcoat it when speaking to the media.
“It’s one of those plays in my ten-year career I don’t think I’ve been a part of. If you play that play between me and Eddie, the times out of ten one of us tags him down,” said Gipson. “Too much football IQ between the two of us to let a play like that happen. So obviously it’s just one of them things what keep you up at night.”
“You can deal with a lot of things but, you know, we touch him down, you never how that changed the momentum. Just like they got a stop on a turnover in the red zone, changed the momentum for them. Who knows what that could have did for us.”
“Obviously, that’s tough, that’s tough, man. Something as simple as touching a guy down, you know, they teach you that in little league. Obviously, it’s just a play that can’t happen, shouldn’t have happened, and won’t happen again, man, as long as I’m employed by the National Football League, and I’m sure Eddie feels the same way.”
It’s the most glaring but certainly not the last forgettable play by the secondary against Matthew Stafford and the Lions’ offense. There were seven pass plays over 17 yards on the evening, and in the third quarter, Cooper Kupp didn’t have a defender within ten yards of him on a 56-yard touchdown catch.
The defense allowed 312 passing yards and 11.6 per completion to Stafford in a game that looked no better a day later.
“You go to film on Monday, sometimes it’s not as bad as you think, and when you have a great game, sometimes it’s not as good as you think, but today was as bad as it looked on Sunday,” said Gipson.
So how did that happen, especially with a group with two experienced safeties?
“It could be a testament to a lot of things. I think that Week 1 in the NFL is always that kinda jitters. We can say a lot of things. Obviously, this was a lot of uncharacteristic football around the league and, you know, we’re human, same thing, man. It’s no excuse,” said Gipson. “Obviously getting on the same page with each other, missing that time in training camp, sometimes, trying to get on the same page with each other.
“No finger-pointing, obviously, man. At the end of the day, when you give up plays like that on the back end, it’s a collective situation that all of us that we take ownership in and, obviously, we’ve got to do better.”
Whether in complicated coverage or simply tagging a player on the ground after making a catch.
More NFL video at NFL.com.