- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Given the issues endured through the first five games, particularly on offense, it's natural to wonder about the team's next evolution over the final 11 contests. But instead of guessing, we'll dig into some of the statistics provided by ESPN Stats & Information that brought the Bears to where they are now, and maybe then we can take educated guesses as to how the rest of the season might unfold.
This one is for the stat heads:
More shotgun? It sure doesn't look that way. It would seem operating out of shotgun formations would give quarterback Jay Cutler more time to scan the field to find open receivers, while also allowing him to get rid of the ball before the pass rushers converge. But through the first five games, shotgun hasn't given the lift you'd anticipate.
Out of shotgun formations, Cutler has completed 43 of 77 passes for 566 yards with a touchdown and five interceptions while absorbing eight of his 14 sacks. Cutler's QBR passing out of shotgun is 46.7 and his passer rating is 56.5. Obviously, several factors go into these numbers. But perhaps the easiest explanation for the inaccuracy is pressure. When the team operates out of shotgun, it's often running empty sets (five receivers, no running back) which means Cutler -- because of the lack of tight ends or running backs in protections, and the fact the offensive line is in one-on-one matchups -- is forced to throw the ball much quicker than he'd probably like. If he scans the field a second too long, he's at greater risk for taking a sack.
More rollouts? Cutler hasn't built up a large sample size to draw any conclusions about how he'll fare on rollouts, but he's completed 7 of 13 of his throws outside the pocket (some of these aren't designed rollouts) for 133 yards, no touchdowns and one interception and is averaging 7.9 yards per completion through the first five games.
Going into the Week 5 games, 21 quarterbacks around the league had thrown more balls outside the pocket than Cutler. So maybe it's time Chicago's offensive coaching staff lets Cutler loose?
Tighten up the protection: Until the Bears consistently shut down extra pass rushers, teams will continue to bring them. On 59 of Cutler's 156 attempts through the first five games, opponents brought five or more pass rushers. In those situations, Cutler completed 30 passes for 487 yards, four TDs, and three INTs while suffering nine sacks.
Running game makes passing game go: Cutler's numbers on playaction passes indicate as much. He's completed 65.4 percent of playaction passes for 273 yards and three TDs with only one INT and a passer rating of 122.8, while averaging 10.5 yards per completion.
So it's obvious opponents respect Chicago's rushing attack.
In goal-to-go situations, Bush has run the ball six times for 12 yards with three touchdowns. All three of those TDs came on runs inside the 3. More impressive is the fact that Bush has carried the ball four times this season inside the 3.
In short-yardage situations, the Bears have run the ball 10 times for 19 yards, while converting seven first downs.
On to the receivers: As a team, one area in which it could improve is yards after catch. Just 38.5 percent of the team's receiving yardage (465 of 1209 yards) has come after the catch, with Brandon Marshall leading the way (161 yards after the catch), followed by Forte (96) and Bush (62).
Collectively, the Bears have dropped a total of eight passes with Marshall owning responsibility for three, followed by Kellen Davis (2). Marshall remains one of the league's most targeted receivers (35 receptions on 56 targets). In the red zone, Marshall has caught three of the seven balls thrown his way for 19 yards and one of his three TDs.
No need to manufacture pressure: The Bears continue to show the propensity to disrupt opposing offenses by rushing just four defenders. When Chicago rushes four, it has allowed three touchdowns but picked off 10 passes. In addition, the club has gobbled up 15 sacks while rushing just four, while holding opponents to a QBR of 24.6 and a passer rating of 58.8.
Interestingly, when Chicago has rushed five, it has given up two touchdowns and picked off three passes while generating three sacks.
The Bears need to improve in short-yardage run situations. On third and fourth downs with 2 yards or fewer needed for a first down (not counting kneel-downs, fake punts or fake field goals), the Bears allowed a first down on four times in seven of those situations.