If it isn't readily apparent, I hate the bye week purely on a fan level. It's absolutely needed on a player level, and I wouldn't want to do sixteen straight weeks of heavy contact and hitting and such without a week off. But on a fan level, it's brutal because it's a week of having to watch other teams either gain division ground, put extra distance in the division, and if you're a really unlucky person, you might be watching the Vikings or Jaguars.
Wait, the Vikings are on Sunday Night Football? Crap.
But all that being said, the bye week is a great time to step back and assess the team. So, let's do that - and later today, I'll bring you the things that concern me most about the 2013 Bears going forward.
I'd say at this point, the offense has so far exceeded the fans' expectations. We expected the offense to take gradual steps forward as the year went on, and at the beginning of the year they looked very rough over entire quarters but still produced. Did you know that to this point the Bears haven't scored less than 20 points all season? (Except one - 18 points scored against the Saints - thank you for the catch!) Last year the Bears had nine games of scoring at least 20 points. The year before, nine as well. They're at seven this year (out of seven).
Might not look that impressive, but it really speaks to the overall consistency of the offense this year, despite how inconsistent they've played throughout games. What we've gotten is an offense that's struggled to our eyes but has really produced. By yardage, the offense is 11th (and could probably finish the year top 10 in yardage), and the Bears have scored the second most points in the league. That's not bad at all.
Jay Cutler's injury hurts things, and possibly pretty badly - as much as we might believe in Josh McCown now, keep in mind his performance was against a horrible Redskins defense with zero prep time against him. But the Bears are still able to run the ball at times, and McCown should be serviceable enough that the offense won't completely falter.
Unfortunately, as much as the offense has begun to exceed expectations, the defense has really been underwhelming. They're still picking up plenty of turnovers, but there's a really scary stat I want to share with you, and that's 43.6%. Yes, that's below 50%, which should be good, but I didn't even tell you what that stat is - it's scoring percentage allowed. The Bears allow other teams to score on 43.6% of their drives. That's counting in their turnover and ball-hawking skills, as well as facing the Vikings offense and Steelers offense.
It's a bad thing.
Part of that is the team's defensive line woes - the Bears haven't really gotten after quarterbacks at all this year and have been shoved off the ball in the run game far too easily. And a defensive line that doesn't do its job makes everyone else's job that much more difficult, as Chris Conte can certainly attest. All things considered, the back seven haven't been as bad as we think, but they haven't been good either, missing gaps, and their on-again-off-again relationship with tackling appears to be on hiatus as Tackling has run off to Hawaii with another team.
Part of it is injuries exacerbated by the bad defensive line play - truthfully, we won't know if Henry Melton would have figured it out again had he stayed healthy, nor Nate Collins. Corey Wootton's been fine at three-tech, but I can't help but think we'll see even more David Bass at end with Shea McClellin struggling to continue to earn playing time.
And the Bears will have to manage injuries with Lance Briggs out and D.J. Williams done for the year, meaning the future is now in the linebacking corps. Which further means the defense may well have further growing pains.
Adam Podlesh has been up and down. Speculated to be cut earlier in the year as the Bears brought in a bunch of tryout punters, Podlesh has been solid in the last few weeks and may well be back to earning his contract. Robbie Gould missed a field goal last week, but his performance this year has been very good. And Patrick Mannelly is still Patrick Mannelly.