North Carolina suffered its 1st loss of the season this past weekend, as Notre Dame came to Chapel Hill and embarrassed Carolina’s defense in a 45-32 decision.

The defense couldn’t do anything to stop a previously struggling Notre Dame offense, and it showed that Carolina has some serious issues on that side of the ball that are going to hold it back this year.

Here are 5 defensive trends UNC has to fix as it heads into ACC play:

Allowing way too many chunk plays

Carolina is allowing teams to move the ball in pretty much every way, but it also has been plagued by chunk plays.

The Heels have allowed 72 plays of 10 yards or more, 7 more than any other ACC team. For context, Virginia Tech leads the league with just 35 such plays allowed in the same number of games.

Carolina’s 26 plays allowed of 20 yards or more also is the most in the ACC, as it rank among the bottom 11 in the entire Football Bowl Subdivision in both stats. The Tar Heels also are allowing those big plays through the air and on the ground. Of their 72 10-yard plays allowed, 27 have come on the ground.

Against Notre Dame, Carolina gave up 10 rushing plays of 10 or more yards and 7 passing plays of 15 yards or more. The Heels just don’t have the defensive talent or scheme so far to limit the big shots.

Not getting off the field

Opponents are converting on 3rd down 41.82% of the time against North Carolina, the 3rd-worst defensive mark among ACC teams.

In UNC’s 2 toughest games, it was even worse. Appalachian State converted 50% of its 3rd downs during a 63-61 Carolina win. Then this past weekend, Notre Dame converted 57.14% of its opportunities. The Irish entered the week with a conversion rate of just 26%.

It’s hard enough to win when your defense is allowing 6.43 yards per play. It’s even harder if you can’t get off the field when you are able to get a team to 3rd down.

Nonexistent in the opponent’s backfield

No school in the ACC has been worse at getting into the opponent’s backfield this year than Carolina, as the Heels have just 18 tackles for loss through 4 games. Florida State has the next fewest at 22, as Carolina’s 4.50 TFLs per game is a full TFL less than any other conference team.

Hand in hand with tackles for loss as a whole are sacks, which Carolina also isn’t getting. The Heels have just 7 sacks on the season, tied for the fewest in the ACC.

A lot of defensive issues can get covered up if you can create havoc in the opponent’s backfield, both on passing plays and penetrating in the run game, but Carolina hasn’t been able to do that in the slightest this year.

The Heels’ defense isn’t good enough on the back end to mask the lack of damage in the backfield.

Nearly 5 yards per carry allowed

Along the same lines as its inability to get into the backfield, UNC is just getting no push at the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball.

The Heels are allowing 216.5 rushing yards per game, but more concerningly they are allowing 4.95 yards per carry. Notre Dame averaged 5.6 yards per carry, as Carolina’s defensive front is losing almost every single battle.

For Gene Chizik’s defense as a whole, that can’t keep happening. Carolina has some talent in its defensive front, more so than it does in the secondary at least. If teams can just run the ball over and over with little resistance, the shaky secondary is going to be even shakier when teams pass.

The secondary has been torched all year as well, but it’s the defensive front for the Heels that maybe has been the more disappointing factor.

Making it too easy for opposing receivers

The Tar Heels have had by far the worst passing defense in the ACC, as Carolina is allowing 278.8 yards per game through the air. Opponents have a 172.08 passer rating against the Heels, and Carolina is giving up 8.4 yards per passing attempt.

There are a lot of issues that have gone into Carolina’s struggles, but chief among them is that it simply isn’t making it hard on receivers. The Heels have just 12 passes defended and 10 passes broken up this year, 2nd worst in the ACC in both to only Georgia Tech.

And it’s not for lack of attempts, either, as opponents are averaging over 33 attempts per game against the Heels. Quarterbacks have time. Receivers can get space. It’s a recipe for disaster for the Tar Heels.