When Marc Trestman was hired he laid out a plan to play efficient football and emphasized the need to play more disciplined football.
Overhauling the offensive line was a big priority for Trestman and GM Phil Emery. They succeeded by bringing in four new starters on the offensive line in Matt Slauson, Jermon Bushrod and rookies Jordan Mills and Kyle Long. The group started every game for the Bears in 2013, marking the first time since 2008 that the team started the same five offensive linemen in all 16 games.
As the season progressed one of the things that was oft-cited by analysts was not just the offensive improvement or the improvement in the offensive line, but also the fewer penalties by the unit.
So what was the improvement for the Bears in 2013?
Total penalties in 2012: 102 (t-11th in NFL)
Total penalties in 2013: 88 (6th)
Breakdown by unit:
2012 offensive penalties: 56
2012 defensive penalties: 46
2013 offensive penalties: 42
2013 defensive penalties: 43
Now I won't get into each specific penalty that was called because that is tedious and, while all penalties are costly, some are more flukey (say, an ineligible man downfield) or can be called inconsistently, or get called in a heat-of-the-moment type deal (many personal foul penalties).
However, I will highlight some penalties here and, again, use the links above if you want to see each penalty levied against the Bears.
2012 defensive offside calls: 5
2013 defensive offside calls: 2
2012 pass interference: 4
2013 pass interference: 5
2012 illegal contact: 3
2013 illegal contact: 0
2012 false start: 25
2013 false start: 9
2012 offensive holding: 25
2013 offensive holding: 18
2012 unnecessary roughness: 6
2013 unnecessary roughness: 4
2012 roughing the passer: 2
2013 roughing the passer: 0
2012 offensive pass interference: 6
2013 offensive pass interference: 1
Now is it all a testament to better coaching for the improvement on these penalties? No, probably not, in fact it probably says something about the lack of a pass rush that the Bears didn't get a single flag accepted against them for roughing the passer this season. However, the improvement in the offensive line penalties probably is down to coaching and better players.
There were some penalties that there were more of in 2013 like illegal shift, formation and motion. The Bears combined for four of those in 2013 after having none in 2012. That could be chalked up to a combination of new system and/or more creative system perhaps.
Overall though there was a fairly significant improvement in penalties from '12 to '13 and I would expect that to improve at least slightly in '14, as players should be more comfortable in the system and cut down on some of the little shift and motion penalties.