Chicago Bears

Musick: Take a deep breath, Bears defenders

H. Rick Bamman -
Chicago defensive tackel Jeremiah Ratliff against the Dallas Cowboys Monday, December 9, 2013 at Soldier Field.
H. Rick Bamman - Chicago defensive tackel Jeremiah Ratliff against the Dallas Cowboys Monday, December 9, 2013 at Soldier Field.

LAKE FOREST – Is anybody else hearing voices?

Because when Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy spoke about his team’s up-tempo offense during a conference call Wednesday, I could not help but hear echoes.

“It’s one thing to be in shape,” McCoy said. “It’s another to be in shape for this offense.”

You’re out of shape, the echoes chided. It’s called a treadmill. Look into it, pal.

“[This offense] keeps the defense unbalanced, not really knowing what’s going on,” McCoy said. “Those guys are tired, and once they get tired, you can roll and get going.”

You get tired taking off your coat, the echoes chuckled. This guy would crush you.

“When the big guys up front get tired, the holes get a little bigger,” McCoy said. “If there’s one step that a guy got you on the first time, he won’t get you the next time because he’s tired.”

Listen to this guy, the echoes said. He doesn’t think NFL players can keep up with his pace.

All righty, then.

Let’s see what the big guys on the Bears’ defensive line had to say about McCoy’s remarks.

Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff did not seem amused by the line of questioning. Sift through the delicate phrasing, and he was being asked how he and his heavyset teammates would avoid exhaustion while playing against a no-huddle offense that goes and goes.

“We’re going for three-and-outs and getting off the field on third down,” said Ratliff, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 303 pounds. “That’s the way you stay fresh.”

In theory, Ratliff’s plan made perfect sense.

In reality, well, anyone who has watched the Bears defense this season knows the reality.

Because the Eagles have the No. 2 offense in football, and McCoy has an astounding four (four!) games this season with more than 150 rushing yards. There will be times Sunday that the Bears’ defensive line will be gasping for breath, hands on knees, hoping for Santa to bring a tank of oxygen.

Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea (6-1, 300) understood the challenges ahead.

“It’s true that, when you’re tired, you can’t function,” Paea said. “We’re doing a great job right now of expecting the no-huddle. We’re trying our best to get in our best conditioning, probably all year.”

And if you’re gassed?

“We’ve just got to tap out,” Paea said.

Which is to say, the Bears’ behemoth defenders literally will have to tap out. Paea showed the signal: Turn toward the sideline, raise your right hand to the top of your helmet, and tap-tap-tap.

At that point, a teammate will sprint on to the field as a replacement.

Against other teams, this is a common practice.

Against the no-huddle Eagles? Not so fast, my friend.

A poorly timed tap-out could lead to a nationally televised uh-oh moment.

“We’ll sub when we can sub, when it is appropriate,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, who has called the shots from the sidelines in recent weeks. “But we will be ready to go the long haul and go the distance with the guys we have out there. We have to play hard and we have to play long.”

Smart, too.

Because if the Bears pay careful attention, they’ll have opportunities to make substitutions.

“It’s definitely fast, but there’s a little more time than you think,” Bears defensive lineman Corey Wootton said. “Because after every play, they look toward the sideline. So there is time in between.”

Unless there isn’t. In which case, you’re stuck.

Bears defensive tackle Landon Cohen fears nothing, including being stranded on Chip Kelly Island. Sometimes, Cohen said, you need to summon energy from within when you think you have none left.

“If you’re out there, you’re out there,” said Cohen, a 6-foot-1, 300-pounder from Ohio. “It’s mind over matter. You’ve conditioned yourself enough, trained yourself enough. Everything is in your mind.

“You could think you’re so tired your heart’s about to explode. I had a coach that used to be like, ‘When your heart’s about to explode, give me one more.’ ”

But that’s insane.

Why not tap out?

“If they’re running and they’re no-huddling, you can’t tap out,” Cohen said. “They’re going to catch you with 10 guys on the field, and you don’t want that. So you’ve just got to go.”

And go.

And go.

Good luck, big fellas.

• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at and on Twitter @tcmusick.

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