Disturbing trends haunt Bears offense with tougher schedule looming
There is reason for concern about the Chicago Bears offense, and it goes well beyond a statistical ranking or their consecutive games with one offensive touchdown.
After seven games, the Bears simply are not accomplishing what offensive coordinator Mike Tice set as the goal for his attack: being more explosive and scoring more points.
Thanks to the Jay Cutler-to-Brandon Marshall combo, the Bears have become Fantasy league friendly after years when their receivers were fantasy late-rounders. However, it's not translating well to real football.
Although they've scored more points overall, it's because of their six defensive touchdowns. Last year they averaged 3.6 rushing plays of 10 yards or longer during Cutler's 10-game stint. This year they also average 3.6 runs of 10 yards or more per game. Last year they averaged 3.2 passing plays 20 yards or longer -- this year it's 3.1 passing plays 20 yards or longer.
They're down 20.4 yards per game in passing yards, 13.2 total offensive yards per game and are averaging 1.6 turnovers committed a game this year compared to 1.2 last year. The offense averages 20.1 points per game but last year with Jay Cutler, no Brandon Marshall, and Mike Martz calling plays, the offense alone averaged 23.3 points per game.
A more explosive attack? Last year they averaged 3.6 rushing plays of 10 yards or longer during Cutler's 10-game stint. This year they also average 3.6 runs of 10 yards or more per game. Last year they avergaged 3.2 passing plays 20 yards or longer -- this year it's 3.1 passing plays 20 yards or longer.
In addition, they've played an easier schedule in seven games than they did last year in the 10 games Cutler played. They'll need to fatten up this week to improve that average because the only thing that will go up for the Bears offense when facing Houston and San Francisco the next two weeks will be the number of bruises players suffer.
Cutler said the offense is getting a dose of its own defense's medicine with zone coverages, as well as the "two-man" coverage that Green Bay used against the Bears in the past.
"We're just seeing a lot more softer coverages than we have in the past," he said. "I don't remember seeing this much two high and two man -- never in my career have we seen this much. I think teams are just trying to control us because with our defense the other offenses are struggling to put points on the board. Just want to kind of corral us and keep the ball in front of them."
About the only areas of success is their ability to move the chains, but it's marginal. They have 19.7 first downs per game to 18.3 with Cutler last year. They're averaging 7.2 more rushing yards per game as well. A better time of possession by one minute, 15 seconds per game is more the result of the defense getting the ball back for the offense more often than it is consistent movement of the chains.
"It's about having a rhythm, and if you have a bunch of three-and-outs, that's not having a rhythm out there," RB Matt Forte said. "So we have to have a rhythm out there and keep drives going."
Bring these numbers up to anyone associated with the team and they point at the 6-1 record and say that's what's important.
It's also easy to point at the 6-1 record amassed against weaker teams and say wait until the start of the second half of the season when San Francisco, Houston, Green Bay, Seattle, and Detroit are on the schedule.
The game Sunday is the last one by the Bears against a team currently ranked defensively (30th) in the bottom half of the league.
Follow Bears reporter Gene Chamberlain on Twitter @CBSBears.