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Data Drop: Bears analytical takeaways from Week 8

What do the numbers say about how the Bears performed in Week 8 against the Cowboys?

Chicago Bears v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Bears had the most encouraging game for a team that nearly allowed 50 points that I have seen in quite some time.

It goes without saying that Chicago struggled defensively against the Cowboys last Sunday. That said, the offensive output against a quality defense provides plenty to be intrigued by in the future. Roquan Smith is no longer a Bear since the game has come and gone, and Chase Claypool has been brought in.

Each week going forward, I’m going to take to the spreadsheets and data to see how the Bears fared in the previous game. I hope that this will be as informative of an exercise for you as it likely will be for me.

Let’s see what the numbers say about how the Bears played in Week 8.

Justin Fields is very good

This is essentially a three-part observation, as not only did Justin Fields perform very well, but especially with the Bears’ weapons struggling in the passing game and their offensive line generally scoring poorly.

Fields was one of the more efficient quarterbacks in the NFL last week. Here’s how he fared around the league in key analytical categories:

  • 0.203 Points Earned per pass (11th)
  • 0.092 Points Above Average per pass (11th)
  • 136.5 IQR (3rd)*
  • 120.0 passer rating (4th)
  • 0.750 PE per run (1st)
  • 0.690 PAA per run (1st)
  • 0.76 EPA per run (1st)

Note: IQR is essentially just passer rating adjusted for outside factors (pass blocking, drops, etc.)

It’s also worth mentioning that not only was Fields first among quarterbacks in each of those three rushing statistics, but he was first among all ball-carriers in Week 8. It’s easier for a rushing quarterback to be extremely efficient carrying the ball on the ground, but Fields has been one of the most efficient runners in the league this season. That’s worth celebrating.

The Bears have had worse performances from their pass-catchers this year, but nobody on the team placed in the top 50 in any of Points Earned per route or Points Above Average per route. Darnell Mooney was the closest at 57th and 54th, respectively. The likes of Cole Kmet, Dante Pettis and Velus Jones Jr. respectively placed 139th, 181st and 198th in Points Earned per route.

Even more worrisome was the Bears’ offensive line. Allowing 4 sacks isn’t typically a great day, and those struggles are reflected in advanced data. None of Chicago’s offensive linemen placed in the top 15 at an individual offensive line position in terms of Sam Mustipher and Michael Schofield both placed 17th in Points Earned per snap at their respective positions. Mustipher reached 15th in Points Above Average per snap, but the likes of Braxton Jones, Teven Jenkins and Riley Reiff all graded below-average in both of those statistics.

In terms of pass-protecting data specifically, the Bears struggled heavily at both tackles spots and at right guard. None of Jones, Jenkins or Reiff placed in the top 160 among blockers in Total Points Earned or Total Points Above Average as pass blockers.

These numbers do not tell the whole story, but they point to the narrative that Fields is doing a very good job despite having a lackluster supporting cast. There have been flashes from the likes of Jenkins and Jones up front, but consistency will be key for the offensive line. The Bears’ wide receivers could be aided significantly by the arrival of Chase Claypool, even if his role is limited as he adjusts to the new offense in the coming weeks.

Roquan Smith goes out on a low note

Sunday marked the last game of Roquan Smith’s tenure with the Bears, as the team traded the All-Pro linebacker to the Ravens right before the trade deadline. His time in Chicago will be looked upon fondly, and he put together a mostly strong 2022 season before his departure. That said, his last game with the organization was not an efficient one.

Smith had 5 tackles against the Cowboys, marking his lowest single-game total of the 2022 season and his lowest mark since Chicago’s Nov. 25 matchup against the Lions last year. He graded as a liability not just against the run, but as both a pass-rusher and a coverage defender, too.

Here’s how he fared among the rest of the league in various analytics on Sunday:

  • -0.017 Points Saved per run play (186th)
  • -0.052 Points Above Average per run play (185th)
  • -0.056 Points Saved per pass rush (153rd)*
  • -0.090 Points Saved per play in coverage (181st)
  • -0.128 Points Above Average per play in coverage (182nd)

Note: Only 154 players rushed the passer in Week 8.

It’s worth noting that Eddie Jackson fared well in coverage, placing sixth among safeties in both Points Saved per play (0.164) and Points Above Average per play in coverage (0.126). Jaylon Johnson placed 32nd and 34th in the respective categories, while the likes of Kindle Vildor, Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker struggled in coverage.

The Bears’ pass rush was essentially nonexistent. Brisker was again very efficient with a sack on his only rush, but no other Bears defender placed in even the top 125 in any pass-rushing analytical category. They also faced to place a single player in the top 100 of key run-defending analytical categories.

It was obviously a day to forget on defense for the Bears, and Roquan Smith’s performance was a disappointing end to a tremendous four and a half seasons in Chicago. The lack of investment in the front-seven indicates the Bears could struggle a bit on defense to close out the season.