The math-leaning mind views the Chicago Bears and can’t make sense of what it is seeing.
Chicago ranks 28th in offensive yards per game (312.8), yet the Bears are 5-1. Perhaps they’re a grind-it-out team, one might surmise.
Wrong. Chicago ranks 28th in rushing yards per game as well with 90, and is near the middle of the pack in time of possession per game (30:33, good for 14th). The Bears are 27th in scoring, averaging 21.3 points per game.
It must be the defense, then, right? That’s somewhat true, with the Bears ranking seventh in yards allowed per game (337.2), 10th in passing yards allowed per game and second in third-down conversion rate allowed (31.82 percent). The Bears are good at getting off the field, but they just aren’t good enough with the ball in their hands.
“We know that across the board on offense right now there’s different things we can get better at, and that’s everybody, myself included,” Bears coach Matt Nagy told reporters Monday following Chicago’s 23-16 win over Carolina. “I saw yesterday, I saw what Nick (Foles) said, what did he say, ‘Would you rather win ugly or lose pretty?’ That kind of sums it up there. But the best part of what he said, right, is that we all care, and we all gotta do whatever we can to get this thing fixed.”
It’s no small feat to win five of your first six games with an offense that, frankly, shouldn’t have more than a win or two under its belt at this point. But the Bears have been able to flip the switch when needed, at least against lesser opponents.
They were able to do so in Week 1 when they overcame a large deficit to beat Detroit. They did it again in Week 3 against Atlanta, riding the spark provided by the insertion of Foles to three fourth-quarter scores in a stunning victory. And even in Week 5 against Tampa Bay, the Bears were able to claw their way 32 yards down the field to get in range for the game-winning field goal.
They just haven’t done it anywhere near enough. Since Foles’ three-touchdown fourth quarter in Week 3, he’s thrown just three scores over the last three games.
Fixing the offense isn’t as simple as replacing Foles, who has demonstrated in his career he’s a quarterback who becomes dangerous once he gets hot. He just hasn’t warmed up long enough to keep that streak going, with his passing yards per attempt, TD-INT ratio and passer rating all decreasing since that explosion in Atlanta.
Perhaps Chicago will just resign itself to riding the defense and hoping for the best. Bears fans will try to point to 2006 as an example of that, when Rex Grossman was Chicago’s starting quarterback and its defense powered the franchise to a Super Bowl appearance. But that team still owned a scoring differential of over 10 points per game.
This squad’s per-game differential is just 2.
“We’re 5-1 right now and we’re not playing well offensively,” Nagy said. “So when we do get this thing up and running — which we will — it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a lot of fun. That’s the goal. We understand where our warts are on offense, we get that and we’re going to keep working on it. But we’re going to continue to stay positive as we do this because of where we know we’re at and where we’re going.”
There’s plenty of road ahead, and at 5-1, history says the Bears’ path looks rather promising. Since 1990, teams that started 5-1 made the playoffs 83.3 percent of the time and won their division 60.8 percent of the time, and 9.8 percent of them won the Super Bowl.
If the Bears figure that offense out, their chances will likely increase. Not bad for a team that has already switched quarterbacks this season.
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