Emma's observations from Bears-Cardinals: Chicago's lack of depth exposed


CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The Bears lost for the sixth time in seven games Sunday at Soldier Field, falling 33-22 to the Cardinals. Here are the observations from another tough game for the Bears.

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Depth perception
When Cardinals running back James Conner broke off a 23-yard touchdown catch-and-run during the second quarter, he busted through a helpless Bears defender.

Most of the fans in Soldier Field likely didn’t even know who was wearing No. 21 in an orange jersey Sunday – Xavier Crawford, a third-year cornerback who has bounced around the NFL over parts of three seasons.

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As bad as his missed tackle was, Crawford also shouldn’t have even been in that position. Blame general manager Ryan Pace, who failed to address areas of need on the roster and built a defense that lacks depth.

It was foolish to think a veteran-laden defense with five starters age 30 or older could stay healthy and productive this season. The Bears believed their defense could be dominant in 2021, but the continued breakdown of the unit was far more likely. Meanwhile, Pace and the front office didn't adequately address the bottom of the roster. That problem was again on display Sunday as the Cardinals picked apart the Bears’ B team on defense.

With Akiem Hicks (ankle) out, Angelo Blackson started on the defensive line. Trevis Gipson is trying to fill the big shoes of Khalil Mack at outside linebacker after Mack had foot surgery. Cornerback Artie Burns is playing a position that Pace completely neglected after releasing Kyle Fuller. Burns took over after Kindle Vildor struggled mightily in the spot. Crawford is a poor option at the nickel but also probably the Bears’ best choice there right now.

The Bears have a bottom-tier defense. They rank No. 22 in scoring defense in the NFL. They're 28th in takeaways this season, forcing just 11 turnovers in 12 games. And they've allowed scores on 42.9% of drives on defense, a mark that ranks 27th in the NFL.

To believe the Bears would be anything other than an average-at-best defense wasn't wise. Instead, the group is bottoming out. The lack of depth has been exposed.

The Bears devoted the first-team quarterback reps to veteran Andy Dalton in their offseason program and training camp, believing he'd be their starter for the entirety of the season.

Dalton lasted just two games as the starter before suffering a knee injury and losing his job to rookie Justin Fields, who was thrust into a difficult position given his lack of reps with key players on offense. That all brings us back to Sunday, when Dalton started once again while Fields recovers from ribs fractures.

Why did Dalton seem completely lost out there? He threw four interceptions and helped give away the game to the Cardinals.

Dalton has been average even at his best this season and has never asserted himself as the starter. But this was by far his worst performance – and it was ugly.

Leadership matters
Bears running back David Montgomery and linebacker Roquan Smith reminded us Sunday of their place as team leaders.

Montgomery ran tough, rushing 21 times for 90 yards and a score. After the loss, he spoke about accountability with his team.

“I’m going to get back to work,” Montgomery said. “I’m going to get on everybody’s ass. They’re going to get on mine too. And we’re going to go back to the drawing board and figure it out.”

Then there was Smith, who posted eight tackles and a tackle for a loss while playing every defensive snap despite an ailing hamstring. Smith could’ve sat out, but he played through the pain and made a point.

Extra points
-- The Bears no longer list the actual attendance at Soldier Field, instead announcing that 60,803 tickets were distributed for their game Sunday. It looked like around 45,000 fans were present for the start of the game – and about 15,000 by the end. How many fans will be there when the Bears host the Giants on Jan. 2 in their home finale?

-- In the second quarter, the boos grew louder at Soldier Field. Cardinals defensive lineman Jordan Phillips waved his arms to encourage the displeasure. Later, his teammates joined in the act. They were feeding off the anger in Chicago.

-- During the third quarter, the Bears hit on a trick play that was nearly ugly. They operated out of a wildcat formation, with Montgomery handing off to receiver Jakeem Grant, who then pitched the ball back to Dalton, who had started the play split out wide. Dalton had to evade an oncoming defender and before hitting Grant down the sideline for a 34-yard strike. It was the Bears' longest offensive play of the game and made Nagy’s first season of 2018 feel like decades ago.

-- Which will get fixed first: Soldier Field's messy playing surface or the Bears' malfunctioning headsets? Seriously, why can’t the Bears get working headsets? Figure it out.

-- Dalton pointed out that he had two tackles in this game. That’s never good.

-- How are there five games left in this season?

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.