When I dug into the numbers of the Bears offensive statistics in greater detail I came away encouraged and I can see a real case presented for the 2017 Chicago Bears being one of the most improved offenses in the league. I know the offense is not looked upon as having the prospects of being very good in 2017 and the Offensive Coordinator is a favorite target of vilification by fans and media however, in spite of that, these stats from 2016 tell a different story giving legitimate optimism for the Bears offense to improve by leaps and bounds in 2017.
There’s also the perception that the defense is closer than the offense, but when I look at the numbers from 2016 that may not be quite the case. Perhaps it’s the reason why the Bears went heavy offense in the draft and veteran Free agency on defense as that unit is young and inexperienced.
I know a lot of people may rebut the numbers I’m about to provide by stating that points are what truly matter, and some may even bring the Bears were behind a lot and played prevent defenses arguments in it too. While those are valid points a great deal of the Bears offensive struggles to score points can be chalked up to the instability at Quarterback and inconsistent play they had at the position.
Going through three quarterbacks while only having five starts from your starter can have a profound effect on your offense’s point production. Eleven starts by Brian Hoyer (5) and Matt Barkley (6), one a career journeyman backup, and the other with zero career starts and less than 50 snaps prior to 2016 isn’t the ideal recipe to turn an offense into a scoring machine. This is especially so in the red zone where you need to make elite precise throws in a much more congested area.
As for the prevent defense argument, it was rare when the Bears were not competitive and down by two scores or more entering the 4th quarter. The few there was came in the last 2 games when it seemed the team was perhaps ready for the off-season at that point. The Bears had the second most small losses (9 points or less)
in the NFL tied with Saints. Let’s examine game by game.
In week one against the Texans, the Bears led by 4 points before ten unanswered fourth quarter points by the Texans led to a loss.
The next game against Philadelphia in soldier field the game was very much in doubt with the Eagles holding on to a slim 9-7 lead until they scored the first of 3 unanswered touchdowns with only 5:24 left in the third quarter and quickly got out of hand after that with the Eagles scoring three unanswered touchdowns in a span of less than ten game minutes. So not too much prevent going on in this one either.
The Dallas game got out of hand quickly so you can make a case for that one. Especially with Marinelli as the defensive coordinator who hails from the Tamp-two system which is a conservative prevent type defense as it is.
Next game they beat Detroit in a tight game throughout so no prevent going on there. The Indianapolis game was close throughout and went down to the wire with the Bears leading up until under 8:00 left in the fourth quarter. The Bears had the lead going into the fourth quarter before they gave up 17 fourth quarter points and lost by one to visiting Jacksonville. Green Bay led 13-10 going into the fourth quarter at Lambeau field in the next game. They beat Minnesota the following game and led throughout. Even the Tampa Bay game was within reach at the half with the Bears down 7 thanks to an awful late 2nd quarter Cutler pick-six to Chris Conte of all people in perhaps Cutler’s worst game since he was with the franchise.
The very next game against the Giants in New York the game was in doubt up until the very last pass. The next game against the Tennessee Titans it could be argued the Titans laid back in the beginning of the 4th quarter which may have assisted in the Bears making a furious comeback to score 14 points and blow two other scoring chances with a Marquese Wilson drop in the end zone on a well-executed drive. Then two more by Josh Bellamy and Deonte Thompson on the Bears final drive that would’ve of tied the game and won it with a successful one point conversion if any of those passes were caught.
Next game was a win against San Francisco and the Detroit game ended as a loss with a late Lion touchdown to win by 3. After a heart-wrenching loss the Bears blew on a last second bomb on 4th down which resulted in getting into field goal range and a successful walk-off field goal to the Packers, The Bears played two lackluster games like a team would with the season ending against Washington and Minnesota. Both games resulted in blowout losses that certainly included late lead protecting prevent defenses that certainly could’ve aided in padding some offensive numbers.
So by my count, only four games out of twelve could’ve helped te Bears pad some offensive stats. For the most part, these were earned. Here are some encouraging metrics for Bears fans to be optimistic about seeing an effective if not entertaining offense this season.
Team yards per play differential
: The Bears
ranked seventh overall in this stat. You can argue the significance of this stat but just look at all the teams that rank in the top ten. All playoff teams except for Washington (who just missed out and were above .500) and Arizona who were expected to be great and have a dynamic offensive team. No one can with any credibility argue any of those teams sucked on offense.
Team Rushing Yards Per Attempt By First Half and Second Half
: Bears ranked 6th here. Also, in good company in the top ten. The one oddball being the Browns, but their offensive line was ranked very high. Pro Football Focus
had them just behind the Bears at 16th with Joe Thomas, and Jon Greco ranked in the top 20 in run blocking. Some may argue Bills, but they did have LeSean McCoy an excellent back and Tyrod Taylor is an elite running Quarterback. Also, Mike Gillislee (who the Patriots thought enough of to sign and let LeGarrette Blount go for) averaged 5.7 yards per run himself. That’s pretty formidable competition and the Bears ranked up there with those two teams who went 1 and 2 in this stat. Look at the rest of the top ten and all were elite teams with elite lines and elite backs.
Running Back Percent of Team Rush Attempts
: Jordan Howard ranked 3rd in this stat. There were a lot of fans and media critical of how Dowell Loggains didn’t run Howard enough, but according to this, it was criticism unjust.
Team Big Play Differential
: The Bears
ranked a respectable 14th in this stat despite losing Kevin White, Eddie Royal and Alshon Jeffery for significant portions of their season. Not to mention their starting quarterback for all but five starts and two of those with either an injured thumb or an injured shoulder for a good portion of both those games. This stat figures to get a boost with the addition of two big play WR’s in Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton in free agency, the return of Kevin White, the additions of rookie tight end Adam Shaheen and running back Tarik Cohen via the draft, the return of Zach Miller, and the addition of Mike Glennon who’s better at throwing downfield with a stronger arm than Hoyer and Barkley. Especially Hoyer who was check-down Charlie for the Bears in 2016.
Passing Yards Efficiency Ratio
: Bears ranked a surprising eleventh in this stat. This in spite of a lack of efficient Quarterback play by Barkley and at least one game by Jay Cutler (Tampa Bay). This shows me that Loggains just may know what he’s doing in spite of popular opinion among fans and some media members. This certainly is an area that figures to improve in spite of being pretty good as it was in 2016.
Yards Per Game Differential
: The Bears ranked twelveth here. Very respectable again, considering the season they had and all the losses they had on offense and the very little help they got from the defense in terms of turnovers giving them fewer plays and possessions than most offenses enjoyed last season.
All-purpose Yards Leaders
: Jordan Howard was ranked seventh overall which indicates the Bears have an elite offensive player to build their foundation on as being an efficient play action offense.
Team Rushing Big Play Differential
: The Bears ranked 13th overall. This figures to get a spike as Howard will have a lead role in all 16 games this season on top of the addition of Cohen who is a big play waiting to happen. Thirteenth in itself isn’t bad.
Team Plays Per Drive
: The Bears were actually 15th. This also figures to get a boost as Bears have more weapons on offense and Howard for an extra 3 games. They added Shaheen and Cohen to specifically improve 3rd down conversions. Dion Sims was very good on 3rd down too last season for Miami. Also with White and Miller returning from injury on top of the possibility some of their other younger players improving from one year to the next like a Ben Braunecker or a Daniel Braverman.
Team Quarterback Sacked Per Game
: The Bears ranked an impressive ninth. This in spite of an abysmal season by the 2016 free agent Right Tackle Bobbie Massie and losing significant time from their two-star guards Josh Sitton and Kyle Long. Not to mention playing a rookie Left Guard in Cody Whitehair at Center who prior to the 2016 seasons has never taken a snap at center on any level just a week before the start of the season. Then having to insert a new Left Guard a week before the season started as well in Sitton. Sitton was a fortunate pro bowl last minute pick up, but still had to get acclimated to his new mates and they to him on top of learning new verbiage and playbook. Not an easy accomplishment as cohesiveness and continuity are paramount in the success of an offensive line. This area figures to get even better than it was in 2016.
Team Passing Yards Per Completion
: Bears ranked 9th in spite of a QB carousel and the game losses of many offensive starters. More kudos to team Loggains and his offensive staff in spite of being named team village idiot by ignorant fans and media members.
Offense Efficiency Ratio
: Bears ranked a respectable 12th overall. So the Bears are well on their way to building an efficient offense.
: Bears ranked 8th in this department only providing more quantifiable evidence that the Bears are a very good pass protection team.
Team Drives Starting In Own Territory Statistics
: Bears ranked 3rd overall here. Another stat that proves the defense and special teams did the offense no favors. No coincidence that almost all of the teams at the top half of this stat had poor offensive production and most overall records.
Team First Down Statistics:
Bears were 10th here. Converting a 1st down on over 33% of their 1st down snaps which is a good base for an efficient offense. Obviously, the less 3rd down situations you have the higher percentage of sustained drives you’ll have which should lead to more points.
Team Big Play Statistics
: Bears ranked 11th in this stat. Not too shabby. This shows the Bears have big play ability and some electric players on offense. The roster is improved in this area in 2017 too which should lead to an even higher ranking this upcoming season and seasons in the future if they continue to build this offense and stick with continuity not change like so many people wrongfully suggested doing.
Ten yard rushes or more
: Bears were 8th in 10 + rushes despite Howard not playing much the first 3 games. just look under the 10+ column on this stat line.
Offensive Line Rankings
: Here football outsiders have the Bears ranked 8th in run blocking & 7th in pass blocking. Most teams with an offensive line as good as the Bears were at both equal to a highly productive and efficient if not dominant offense. And Charles Leno jr. ranked 7th in the league in runs behind him for all the Leno detractors out there. For those wondering the Bears ran 17% over Leno. They ran it an additional 16% to the left of Leno. Most were over both guards and center as it is with most teams of course at 45%.
QB hits allowed
: Bears ranked 8th in the least QB hits tied with New England with 73 total.
: They were 7th in sacks allowed tied with the much more heralded Offensive lines for Dallas and Tennessee with 28.
This isn’t a fluff piece. The Bears offense had warts. However, it’s not as hopeless as many would make it out to be. However, the Bears offense needs to be better on 3rd down conversions (30th) and their red zone percentage. They also need to limit their penalties. Sustaining more drives is key as well. They ranked 23rd in 10 plus play drives. 31st in time of possession.
I feel this is more about the offense not shooting themselves in the foot rather than being limited by talent and coaching as all these stats point to being the case. The defense needs to step up and help the offense to be better too.
For those who want to immediately defend the defense by saying they were out there a lot because the offense didn’t get enough first downs, stop right now. The Bears defense ranked 20th in defensive snaps per game so that doesn’t fly. They were awful on 3rd down conversions allowed ranking 22nd, and we know about the lack of turnovers ranking as the worst in this department with a microscopic 11 total takeaways and a franchise record after setting the record with 17 the previous season.
These areas alone give the offense a lot more opportunities on top of probably a lot fewer points scored against and fewer deficits to come back from. Many figure the defense to improve drastically as well as the league and media who see the Bear defense as an up and comer. The area that fans, media and perhaps the league need to open their eyes to is that the Bears offense also figures to improve by leaps and bounds. Looking at these stats from 2016, and the fact the roster figures to be a much better and deeper one come 2017
This offense figures to make the next step in its development and perhaps laying the foundation for future franchise quarterback Mitch Trubisky to take it a step farther, perhaps to heights not yet seen in this franchise’s rich and long history.