Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Bears offense catching up to D’s greatness
By John McTigue, ESPN Stats & Info
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe Chicago Bears jump into the top 5 of this week’s ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings following their third 3-0 start in the last 20 seasons.
Marc Trestman is the 3rd coach in Bears history to win each of his first 3 games with the team.
New coach Marc Trestman joins George Halas and Neill Armstrong as the only coaches to win their first three games with the Bears.
Trestman was billed as an offensive-minded coach coming into Chicago, and his changes to the offense have made the Bears formidable on both sides of the ball.
Short and Sweet
The biggest change to the Bears’ offense this season has been the shortening of the passing game.
Last season Jay Cutler was one of two quarterbacks (Andrew Luck) with an average pass length 10 yards downfield. This season Cutler’s average pass has traveled 7.0 yards downfield, 27th in the NFL.
Cutler percent of attempts in 2012:
Cutler percent of attempts in 2013:
Shorter passes have led to more completions. Cutler has never completed more than 63.6 percent of his passes in a season, and has never been higher than 60.5 percent with the Bears. So far this season, Cutler has completed 67.3 percent of his passes.
The higher rate of completions is just one of the benefits to the shorter passing game.
Shorter passes don’t take as long to develop which means Cutler has been able to get rid of the ball quicker.
This, along with some offseason improvements to the offensive line, have led to fewer sacks for Cutler.
From 2009 to 2012, Cutler was sacked on 7.6 percent of his dropbacks, the highest rate in the NFL. This season he’s been sacked on only 2.9 percent of his dropbacks, the second lowest rate in the NFL.
Matt Forte has averaged 24 touches per game through the first three weeks of the season. If the season ended today, that would rank as the highest rate of his career.
Trestman has gotten the ball to Forte more on the ground, with his 18.3 rushes per game ranking as his second highest career rate.
But Cutler and Trestman have increased Forte’s involvement in the passing game as well.
Forte has 18 receptions through three games this season (6.0 rec per game). Through the first five seasons of his career, Forte averaged 3.6 receptions per game.
Forte’s increased presence in the passing game takes some of the pressure off of Brandon Marshall.
Last season Marshall was targeted on a league-high 41 percent of his pass routes. This season, only 30 percent (with only a slight drop in production, -0.7 receptions per game).
Some Things Haven’t Changed
Not everything has changed in Chicago, and the Bears’ defense is proof of that.
Chicago’s defense has continued to force turnovers and put points on the board. The Bears’ three defensive touchdowns lead the NFL and equal the offensive output from both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars.