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What Bears coach Matt Eberflus brings to the defense as the play caller

Nicholas Moreano Avatar
September 15, 2023

Matt Eberflus announced a big change on Friday ahead of the Bears’ Week 2 matchup with the Buccaneers.

Defensive coordinator Alan Williams will not make the trip to Tampa Bay due to personal reasons, so Eberflus will handle the playcalling duties on defense.

There is no timetable for Williams’ return, but Eberflus is no stranger to calling defensive plays.

“I’ve done it for 12 years total,” Eberflus said Friday at Halas Hall. “Really it’s more about the operation of the game management side of it. When the offense is up, it’ll be normal business. And then throwing challenge flags and being right there with Luke and the offense. With the defense up I’ll be making the calls. When we’re off the field, to make the corrections pretty quick, the guys on the sideline are going to help me do that with the players. And from there it’s just about setting up the next series, what’s coming the next series for those guys, if we can communicate that. And from there it’s just normal.”

Eberflus last called the defensive plays for the Colts in 2021 before being hired by the Chicago Bears before the 2022 season. The Colts finished that year with 33 total takeaways (second-most in the NFL) and limited their opponents to 21.5 points per game. Both great statistics the Bears would like to have on their team.

The lack of blitzing will probably remain a similarity between the two teams. Those Colts blitzed 20.2 percent of the time — which was the fifth lowest in the league in 2021. The Bears were right in that area after the blowout loss to the Packers in Week 1.

In Eberflus’ last game as the defensive coordinator for the Colts, his defense allowed 26 points in Week 18 to a Jaguars team that won only three games. The Colts just needed to win and they would’ve earned themselves a playoff spot.

Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence completed 23 of 32 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus, Lawrence was pressured on 27.8 percent of his dropbacks, and the young quarterback completed 5 of his 9 passes for 38 yards and a touchdown when blitzed.

Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers will give Eberflus another opportunity to showcase his defensive mind to help get his Bears team back on track. For Eberflus, he knows he has good group of coaches in place to help him manage his head coach duties while relaying the defensive call to linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.

“I would say that we’ve got a lot of experience on the defensive staff,” Eberflus said. “Jon Hoke is a very experienced coach. Andre Curtis, very experienced coach. They’ve been in the league a long time, they’ve been in our system a long time. (Dave) Borgonzi has been with me a long time. (David) Overstreet, all those guys have been with me so they know how I like to operate, they know how it is when I am calling the play and running that side. So it’ll be good.”

Eberflus will be calling plays without his starting nickel cornerback in Kyler Gordon — who was placed on injured reserve on Thursday. Just adding another layer of difficulty for this Bears defense.

But Eberflus appears ready and willing to adapt, much like his players will have to do with Williams out on Sunday.

“I would just say they’re handling it well,” Eberflus said. “People of their age, they’re really resilient and all that. I think they’re handling it very well. The practices have been good, spirited practices, high energy. It’s been good.”

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