Record Watch - On Pace or Off Track?

The Bears have had the pleasure of playing the San Diego Chargers a total of ten times over the years, and sadly, none of these ten games appear in my Windy City Archive.  I would have loved to watch the legendary 1981 Bears vs. Chargers game in which Buddy Ryan first unveiled his 46 Defense to take down Dan Fouts, and wouldn't have minded rewatching LaDainian Tomlinson burnish his Hall of Fame stats by throwing his seventh career touchdown in their 2007 win over the Bears.  But, since we have just passed mid-season, I wanted to look back at two articles I wrote earlier in the season and see just how good (or bad) the 2011 Bears are doing in setting their marks on the team and NFL record books, and how well my predictions for the season are holding up.  Follow me below the fold to find out the first Bear to lead the league in total yards from scrimmage, see which Bear not named Devin Hester is on pace to beat a team record and perhaps even an NFL mark, and find out just what Jay Cutler will have to do in the final seven games to surpass Erik Kramer as the "best" Bears quarterback of all time.  Onwards!

First up is Matt Forte.  In my last write-up, I accurately predicted he wouldn't be able to touch the many records set by Walter Payton, but he is in the running to set this year's mark for most yards from scrimmage. While his middling numbers from the Lions game allowed Fred Jackson to pass him up by a whole yard as the league leader in yards from scrimmage, Forte certainly has what it takes to take the title back over the last seven games.  If Forte can squeak it out, he will become only the fifth Bear to ever top the league's single-season yardage list.  The two most recent - Walter Payton (1977 & '78) and Gale Sayers (1966) - are the two obvious Bears to make the list.  If you go way back, though, you'll see returner-receiver-running back Harry Clarke won the league yardage title in 1943 by racking up 535 yards on only 23 receptions to go with his 500+ on the ground.  Go even further back than that, and you've got Beattie Feathers, who became the league's first 1,000 yard rusher in 1934 by running for a whopping 8.3 yards a carry over the 10 game season. In any case, you have to root for Forte to win the yardage title this season, if only so he can cement his status as one of the true greats among the many excellent Bears to play running back.

Next up, Robbie Gould.  I was high on his prospects, and he has done just as well as I had hoped. Gould is slowly closing the gap between his career field goal percentage - now at 86.1% - and his competetor Nate Kaeding's 86.5% to be the most accurate kicker in NFL history.  Just as impressive, his 20 FGs so far this season - which projects out to 35 on the season - puts him in a good position to beat his own team record of 32 field goals set in 2006.  Equally impressive, at his current rate of 9.44 points per game he would score a whopping 151 for the season, which would just edge out Kevin Butler's 144 points from 1985.  Assuming he stays with the Bears for the rest of his career, he will have plenty of time to set the last team record for kickers, the 1,141 career points still held by Butthead. 

In the Department of Obvious, we have Devin Hester.  He has already beaten the record for combined kick and punt returns, and if he gets two more return TDs this season, he can occupy one more spot on the list for single-season return touchdowns: he already has the number one (6, 2007) and two (5, 2006) spots on the list.  He is also a full three yards ahead of his previous personal record of 17.1 average yards per return, which to me is a great sign that Hester still has plenty of upside as he approaches his 30s.  If he is able to maintain his 20.1 YPR through the rest of the season and make up for Johnny Knox's one punt return for a measly nine yards, he can surpass the NFL record for team average punt return (20.1) currently held by the 1941 Bears.  Like Gould, Hester is likely to retire holding every team record for his position, but even better, he will probably also set every NFL record of note for kick and punt returners as well.  And some people say he's not Hall-worthy...

Last up, Jay Cutler.  His 2,033 yards so far this season project out to 3,614 over the season, which puts him tantalizingly close to the 3,838 team record held by Erik Kramer (1995).  One or two big games could push him over the top, but he will have to average 247 passing yards for the rest of the season to get the record.  He is way off pace for the other big team QB record - the 29 touchdowns also set by Kramer in 1995 - but he still would only need 2.5 TDs a game to tie the mark.  Not bad for a decidedly decent Jay Cutler season.

How did my season predictions bear out?  My prediction for Donovan McNabb starting less than 8.5 games for the Vikings held up, as did my overly conservative prediction that less than 2.5 rookies would start for the Bears Week 1.  We'll have to steal a game against the Packers to hit my prediction of over 3.5 division wins thanks to our Week 5 loss to the Lions, but anything is possible in the Bears-Packers rivalry, right?  I am somewhat surprised that even in the Black-and-Blue division that I am still way short of my prediction that NFC North QBs would miss over five games due to injury, but I suppose that is one prediction I am happy to be wrong about.  Well, I'm at least happy that our QB has stayed healthy.  Let me know if I missed any Bears who are on pace to break team or NFL records, and feel free to congratulate and/or make fun of yourselves for your own season predictions.

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