Preseason Game 2: 3rd Down Conversions by Opposing Offenses

David Haugh wrote an interesting piece on the Bears defensive woes Saturday, but this stood out the most for me:

Outside of Peppers, nobody made a consistent impact. The Raiders' No. 1 offense converted 5 of 10 third downs behind quarterback Jason Campbell. What will Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo do?

... The Raiders were 5 of 10 on 3rd down in the first two quarters with several of the conversions coming on 3rd and long situations.

In 2009, the Bears were one of the worst defense in stopping a team from converting 3rd down.  Ranked 27th in the league with an opposing offense percentage of almost 42% of the time.

Many felt that the inconsistent pressure by the DL was the main reason why the defense was unable to get off the field, but I have always been of the opinion that the inability of the secondary to read & react and make the necessary tackles has limited the front 7 to an almost "damned if you do, damned if you don't" feeling.

Saturday was no different.

Peppers had multiple pressures on Campbell throughout the course of the first two quarters and was always a "half-second" short of getting a sack or hit on Campbell, but Campbell was always able to find a fleeting back or TE as an outlet or was able to get a wide open receiver down field.

In 2009,only 6 other teams stayed on the field longer than the Bears. Only the Colts (not known for defense) and Eagles (secondary was banged up) were above .500 teams.

Third down conversion is a pretty good indicator (although not scientific) of just how good an opposing offenses game is.  Football Outsiders have spoke highly over the years about how well you can determine a team's chances of scoring and winning football games correlates with their ability to sustain drives.

In 2008, the Bears defense was able to limit teams from being successful in their 3rd down attempts, but they were one of the worst teams at stopping 4th down attempts and had one of the highest attempt rates.  One of the most glaring rankings from that 2008 season was the pass defense and the amount of yards yielded (4076 yds from opposing receivers), penalties (100; 26th in the NFL), and the nearly 62% opposing passing completion.

The Bears need two things in order for the pass defense to be improved:

1.) Figure out the safety situation-- The C2 must have good safety play to not only play over the top of the CBs, but also to enforce "punishment" for anything caught underneath or coming across the middle.  The defense is an aggressive one that is based upon "sure tackling" and big hits once the ball is caught underneath.  The past three years, the safety position has not been able to deliver.  Manning is the Bears "wanted" choice to fill one of two roles, but has not been able to show competence at the position.  Wright looks like he can play the position, but who will line up to his side is the bigger concern.  Chris Harris is MORE than capable, but he is not as quick or athletic as Manning (which is not a knock on Harris).

2.) Be able to get more pressure off the line of scrimmage from the CBs-- This is predicated on the safeties being able to do their part first and foremost.  I think the CBs give such a big cushion on the WRs because their really isn't anyone over the top to protect the big play.

The DL has not been the "overlying" problem to this defense-- its been the secondary.

I really hope that the addition of Wright closes that gap that has seemed to widen since the 2007 season.

<em>This FanPost was written by a Windy City Gridiron member, and does not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of its staff or community.</em>

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