LONDON — Overcoming the absence of Akiem Hicks and Roquan Smith, even for one of the NFL's top defenses, isn't a sustainable feat, apparently.
Following the yeoman's-work-fueled victory in large part by their replacements on 'D' last week vs. the Minnesota Vikings, both returned for Sunday's 24-21 loss to the Raiders. Hicks, though, was a game-time decision with a knee injury he sustained in Week 3, before dislocating his left elbow on only the game's eighth play — the result of friendly fire collision with the helmet of Khalil Mack.
And this time it's impossible to argue his absence didn't have a profound effect considering the Bears allowed rookie Josh Jacobs to eclipse 100 rushing yards, only the second such occurence by a back against the Bears' elite run 'D' since late in the 2016 season.
Nagy didn't say much about Hicks' status, only that he doesn't think it's a season-ending injury and bemoaning the loss of a leader and premier run stuffer in a game, it turns out, he badly needed.
Prince Amukamara admitted losing Hicks early loomed large.
"Not to discredit the guys we have up front — I feel like our front seven is amazing — but everybody knows that Akiem is a huge part of our defense. I feel like that hurt us," he said. "I haven’t watched film yet, so I don’t know if guys were in and out of their gaps or missed tackles or if they just had a good blocking scheme.
"[But] because 96 wasn’t out there, I’m sure that hurt us and really just shows how valuable he is to our team."
The Bears are at least fortunate with the bye this week to reassess Hicks and perhaps come out of it with he and/or Bilal Nichols (broken hand). But after not missing only thee combined games in his first seven seasons — then playing 52 straight to begin his Bears tenure – it's obviously a big concern for one of the Bears' biggest defensive pieces after his career year last season.
Miller Time: Anthony Miller’s drop on a pretty third-and-10 pass from Chase Daniel forced the Bears quickly three-and-out to begin the second half. But the former second-round receiver who'd been mired in an early sophomore slump responded in a huge way on the next series, making three great catches on so-so throws — including a 32-yard 50-50 grab that he out-muscled Raiders DB LaMarcus Joyner for — to set up Daniel-to-Allen Robinson for a 4-yard TD only two plays later.
Then, following a 71-yard Tarik Cohen punt return minutes later, Miller set up the second Daniel-Robinson TD with a 10-yard reception and the Bears had quickly scored 21 unanswered in the third quarter to take their first lead. But he was flagged for taunting on the TD celebration and offsides on the ensuing free kick, which Raiders returner brought back 52 yards.
Nagy admitted that the "double whammy" dealt the Bears a blow, even if Robinson attempted to cover for his teammate in the locker room afterward.
"Guys have a couple drops. He made up for it with the play. The penalty that he got in the end zone, I thought that was a B.S. penalty. It was very ticky-tack to me. ... I actually thought it was on me. So it's tough to say. I thought he made plays. He made a couple big plays down the stretch. But that's football."
Logistically speaking: The Bears slept-walk through much of the first half following a week in which they got to London Friday — four days after the Raiders.
"We came out real flat. Then, when we played as the energetic team that we are, you know, hype, bouncing around, that’s when you started seeing good from us. ... We had to wake up. I’m not sure why we didn’t come out as that team but things happen."
Prince Amukamara also said he understands the questions about the late arrival — on Friday and Sunday — and that "I'm sure all you guys didn't think we were the same defense we were in the states, but he didn't share the belief.
It was more diplomatic than Nagy, who cut off a reporter mid-question on the subject.
"It had nothing to do with when we came here and when we didn’t. It’s about playing football," he said.