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Friday, November 4, 2011
Bears reducing sack totals despite pressure

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has been under pressure throughout the season, but the Bears have found ways of late to avoid drive-killing sacks. That's the upshot of some video analysis from ESPN Stats & Information in advance of Monday night's game at the Philadelphia Eagles.

The chart shows that no quarterback has been under duress this season more than Cutler, with "duress" defined as being forced out of the pocket by pressure or having a throw altered. Nevertheless, Cutler has taken a modest 10 sacks over the Bears' past five games after getting tagged 11 times in their first two.

Duress is something of a subjective observation, and to be sure, there are schematic elements to it. It's worth noting that none of the quarterbacks on this list play in the West Coast offense, which encourages quicker throws. But with the same criteria applied across the board, we can at least see how each team compares on a relative scale, regardless of whether blame lies with scheme, pass protection or a slow-moving quarterback.

Cutler has proved nimble enough to avoid sacks when he can and the Bears' offensive line has stabilized in recent weeks. Meanwhile, coordinator Mike Martz has taken steps to increase the number of blockers devoted to protection, minimize long dropbacks and balance his play-calling. None of those efforts are a finished project, but in total, they've made enough of a difference to bring down the sack totals despite continued pressure.