A storm is brewing in Chicago.
Just not the much-anticipated “perfect storm” that Chicago Bears fans had feverishly hoped for this year.
The storm that is slowly starting to form off the coast of Lake Michigan is one that only instills fear and panic to pedestrians who peer at it through window curtains nervously. This storm is the sort of untamed force that will tear through brick and stone as easily as tissue paper. It will rip through the streets and roadways and obliterate the cherished landmarks that you have held close to your heart. It will cause the locals to gather their children and flee for the hills, where they will hide in isolated shacks waiting for the gargantuan terror to cease its senseless destruction. The hopes and dreams of Bears fans is the kindling, and the 2019 Chicago Bears is the catalyst that sits in the eye of the storm.
Evaluating the Issues
Everything that could have gone wrong for the Bears has gone wrong. Mitchell Trubisky, the former 2nd overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, has severely regressed from last year’s progress after six games. Dynamic playmakers like Tarik Cohen, David Montgomery, and Anthony Miller have been rendered completely ineffective and have fallen way short of the expectations set for them this season. Matt Nagy, the once-revered “offensive genius”, has been completely inept as a play-caller. He’s repeatedly devised schemes that result in lopsided run vs. pass plays and has failed to utilize key offensive player strengths. Not to mention the fumbling issues, offensive line issues, etc. The Bears offense seems to be in way over their heads this season and have been figuratively punched in the face by much more polished and prepared teams.
Does this mean the Bears offense has been relegated as the bottom-feeders of the NFL and will continue their shockingly poor play? Not necessarily. It’s only Week 8 and the Bears have only played six games so far. Considering the chemistry that the players have with each other, and the intelligence and humility of Matt Nagy, it’s fair to be cautiously optimistic that the offense can possibly return to their 2018 form.
With so much deliberation on the offense, what about the defense? What’s going on with them? Well, that situation is a little more difficult to dissect.
After a 16-6 win and dominant defensive performance over the high-octane Minnesota Vikings, the defense continued to pulverize any offensive scheme they would combat this season. The pass rush was relentless, the run defense was stout and unbreakable, and the pass coverage gave opposing QB’s fits when they tried to throw the ball any further than ten yards. The Bears defense firmly put to rest any chatter of regression from last year’s special defense and looked to dominate week in and week out. However, after the Bears took their talents across the pond to battle the Oakland Raiders in London, it’s almost as if they left their hearts and souls back in Chicago.
The defense played with absolutely no passion or tempo and was gashed by the Raiders powerful running back Josh Jacobs and their speedy wide receivers. This was reflected in the box score, as the Bears gave up almost 400 yards of total offense to the Raiders – 229 yards through the air and an unacceptable 169 yards on the ground. After the game, most fans haphazardly tried to justify the team’s overall poor performance by pointing out that the Bears looked exhausted on the field. Some said the reason was that the team had not gotten used to the time zone change and that after the bye week the team would be back to their former glory. As ridiculous as this excuse was, Bears fans had no other explanation for such a poor performance. Many hoped that was actually the case. But alas, those strained hopes were proven false.
Just this past Sunday, in a pivotal Week 7 matchup against the ever-dangerous New Orleans Saints, the Bears were completely dismantled and tossed around. Aside from the offenses’s atrocious performance, the Bears defense was proven to be very vulnerable once again. The Saints did whatever they pleased in nearly every situation. When the nightmare was over, the Saints finished with a whopping 424 yards of offense. The Bears defense was lost and confused, as are the fans.
What could have possibly caused the seemingly invulnerable defense to go belly up and look so wounded? Although it appears that nothing pertaining to Chicago football can be considered good news at the moment, there is a positive side to the Bears struggles: it’s not entirely the defense’s fault.
On The Offensive
According to ProFootballReference.com, the Bears defense still ranks moderately high in most categories. For example, they rank 5th in points against, 10th in yards allowed, 6th in passing TD’s allowed, and 7th in net yards gained per pass attempt. While sifting through these stats, there is two glaring discrepancies among all these impressive defensive stats: the average starting field position by opposing teams, and average time per drive of opposing teams. The Bears rankings? 29th and 19th overall, respectively. What does this tell us? The Bears is staying on the field longer than any defensive unit should have to and the they are repeatedly coming back on the field with terrible defensive field position.
Which leads us into another troubling statistic. The Bears are 28th in drives that lead to offensive scores for opposing teams. When the offense fails to put together meaningful drives that gain moderate yards, it puts the defense’s back against the wall as soon as they trot out there. When you give another team great field position on a consistent basis, it essentially opens the door for their offense to easily score on you. Additionally, the Bears’ offensive rankings support the defenses’ abysmal stats. The offense is 22nd in plays per drive, 28th in first downs gained, and a shocking 29th in yards per drive. See the correlation here?
The Bears offense is statistically near the bottom of the league in plays per drive, yards per drive, and first downs gained. This means that the they often go 3 & out, and barely give the defense anytime to rest. They are thrown to the wolves more often than most defenses in the NFL, which causes them to get fatigued and make mistakes. This translates to the ranking for average time per drive of opposing teams and ultimately results in their mortifying ranking for allowing offensive scores of opposing teams. As presently constituted, it’s much easier to see the chain of events that have led to the Bears’ shocking defensive regression.
Another small note that needs to be made is regarding their lack of interceptions. While the Bears are 10th overall in causing turnovers, they are 20th in the NFL in interceptions. While a reason for this stat could be that offenses are smart enough to not force passes into tough coverage with the likes of Eddie Jackson, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and Kyle Fuller roaming about, it still is a disappointing statistic compared to their performance last season.
In conclusion, much of the blame for the Bears downward defensive spiral into mediocrity the last two games can largely be attributed to the ineffectiveness of the Bears offense. Their lackluster play allows the defense to get almost no rest, forcing the defense into unfavorable situations and allowing opposing offenses to methodically drive down the field and score consistently. In a sense, the Bears offense is the Achilles heel to their defense’s mighty reign.
The Bears Offense murdered the Bears Defense. An impressive feat
— B1G Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) October 20, 2019
The Bears franchise is filled with smart and passionate people who want nothing but success for the team. If an aspiring, amateur sports journalist such as myself can identify these issues, so can team experts who make hundreds of thousands of dollars to do that specific task. Whether that will be sooner or later, only time will tell.
One thing is certain though: a sickening concoction of sloppiness is being stirred in the melting pot of Chicago, and only the Bears can find the cure.