The Chicago Bears, A Tale of Two Teams

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It was the best of football, it was the worst of football, it was a game of dominance, it was a game of turnovers, it's a season of possibility, it's a season of finality, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had a win before us, we had a loss before us, what do we have?  Your schizophrenic Chicago Bears

The Bears are tied for first in the NFL in total offense.  The Bears are second in total defense.  I guess we're one of the best.  No?  We oh-so-barely squeaked by the Lions and had 4 turnovers.  I guess we're one of the worst?  Well, our eyes tell us they are both good and bad.  Just how good are the Bears?  Just how bad are they?

ProFootballFocus.com and FootballOutsiders.com are two websites I like to reference to get some in-depth analysis of the Bears and other NFL teams and players.  Advanced statistics and scouting reports can give all of us another perspective on interpreting what we see on the field of play.

Football Outsiders have the Bears ranked 8th overall when combining Offense, Defense, and Special Teams Value Over Average (VOA).  They analyze each and every play by down and distance and rate the outcome of the play versus the league average result in the same situation.  The Bears' defense ranks 4th, special teams 15th, and offense 24th (all the turnovers, especially on Detroit's side of the field, really hurt their ranking).

In their weekly recap they touch on Matt Forte's day "rushing" the ball:

So, how bad was Forte's day? Using the data and likely conversion rates from that essay, Forte had the third-worst game near the goal line of any back since 2000.

Given the historical rate of conversion for backs inside the five at a given down and distance, Forte's four carries should have yielded 2.22 touchdowns.

Forte did contribute with his two receiving touchdowns, but throw in two fumbles on two of his other receptions, and DYAR eventually figures that he's an overall net negative on the day. His late-game heroics helped, but the Bears needed a miracle play on their final drive to win the game because of how bad Forte (and the rest of the offense) was before then.

Jay Cutler comes in as the 4th highest rated quarterback using DYAR (Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement):

Although it's obviously not incorporated into these statistics, I'm of the volition that Cutler wasn't at fault on the stripsack at the end of the third quarter. Right tackle Frank Omiyale just stopped sustaining his block. Can't do that. While most of Cutler's production came on those two touchdown passes to Matt Forte, Devin Aromashodu also dropped an easy touchdown in the end zone that would given Cutler a 38-yard touchdown. And yes, his interception -- an attempt to hit Johnny Knox on a dig -- was a bad decision.

According to ProFootballFocus.com, Jay Cutler is looking good, he just needs to cut it out with the deep middle throws to a receiver surrounded by the defense:

This was a real improvement for Jay Cutler (+4.5), as he overcame a strong defense, poor pass protection and multiple fumbles to win the game. He looked much more in control, and if he can just cut out the poor deep throws over the middle, he will be well worth the cost of the picks to the Bears. He threw three times into the deep middle (more than 20 yards) and was 0 for 3, including an interception. If you took just those throws into that area away, his passer rating would have increased from 109 to 131.

The are not so kind to Chris Williams (deservedly so):

[Chris Williams] had an awful preseason, getting beaten constantly, and it looked as if our initial fears might be realized. This game solidified that view — he had a shocking day (-6.2). He gave up a sack, 2 hits and 4 hurries in protection as well as a holding penalty. In addition, his run blocking was worse, as Vanden Bosch regularly got inside him to make tackles for no gain or loss.

He is really starting to become a liability for the Bears.  The next two weeks will see him try and block DeMarcus Ware and Clay Matthews, two of the best in the business.  He STRUGGLED big-time against Kamerion Wimbley, another fast, pass-rush specializing outside linebacker.  How is he going to fare against superior players in Dallas & Green Bay? 

Brian Urlacher, as we all know, is back!  He had an outstanding game.  PFF agrees:

All three of the Bears linebackers played well, but it’s perhaps most relevant to highlight just how good Brian Urlacher (+5.4) was in this game. He made a similar positive start to the first game last year before being cut down by injury in the first half. This year he not only made it through the game but he looked even better. He got a sack and hit on five blitzes, gave up next to nothing in coverage (32 drops, 4 targets and 2 catches for 12 yards) and 7 of his 9 tackles were stops.  Particularly impressive — and not normally a staple of his game — was the way he took on and beat the fullback.

 

I am encouraged by what I saw last Sunday, however, that could all get swept away by the Cowboys.  Dallas' offensive line looked worse than the Bears, but they have loads of talent at WR, QB, TE and RB.  Dallas' defense gave up only 250 yards (7th in NFL) to the Redskins.  Dallas' offense and defense are much better than the Lions.

The Bears still are not getting much respect around the NFL, except for what FO and PFF write above,  as evidenced by their still low Power Rankings and 9 point underdog status.  We'll know a lot more Sunday...Go Bears!

(H/T to Dickens for the opening paragraph)

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