- Kevin Seifert, NFL Nation
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I had originally intended the preceding post to cover several aspects of Jay Cutler's first two games of 2012, but I got consumed with the dichotomy of his reaction to the dramatics of the past few days. So while we have a moment, I want to pass along some revealing research from John McTigue of ESPN Stats & Information.
The transition from Mike Martz to Mike Tice at offensive coordinator has, as expected, balanced out the Bears' play-calling. Cutler has dropped back to throw on 56.7 percent of their plays over two games, fewer than he did in any of his first three seasons with the Bears. But when he has thrown the ball, Cutler is pushing the ball downfield more aggressively as well.
As the chart shows, Cutler's average throw last Thursday against the Green Bay Packers traveled 11.5 yards past the line of scrimmage. That was the highest mark of his Bears career, and his average of 11.1 in the Week 1 victory over the Indianapolis Colts was his third-highest.
Cutler has never averaged more than 8.7 "air" yards per throw in his Bears career. In theory, of course, longer throws have higher reward but have a lower percentage chance of being completed.
It almost goes without saying that two games is a small sample size, but this is essentially the type of offense we discussed after visiting the Bears' training camp in August. Tice has followed through on a promise to prioritize the running game, but he is also employing some of the downfield elements he used as the Minnesota Vikings' head coach to capitalize on the addition of receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
These figures will be worth updating as the season progresses. I don't want to draw too many conclusions about what they might mean quite yet.