Will Chicago Bears spend green to improve their red zone chances?

Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Chicago Bears (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Issues in the red zone cost the Chicago Bears at least a few wins in 2019-20. As the offseason rolls on, will they make it a priority? And how can they go about doing so?

Assuming you survived the rollercoaster that was the 2019-20 Chicago Bears’ season, there’s likely a sequence or two that puts things into a nutshell. A defining memory, if you will.

Sometimes, even in defeat, that sequence is a positive — think Devin Hester’s return touchdown on the first play of Super XLI, and how it’s still arguably the most memorable play of that game — and other times, it’s not. The average NFL team runs about 60 plays per game, and sometimes, a “double doink” or a heartbreaking Aaron Rodgers throw is all we remember.

As the Bears closed the curtain on this year’s 8-8 season, the question came up again: what was the one play that defined this Bears team? It probably wasn’t a touchdown; there were too many of them to pick from. Defensively, the Bears were brilliant but didn’t jump off of the page, with just over a turnover created per game.

If your answer isn’t something Eddy Pineiro or Cordarrelle Patterson related, you probably at least remember the Chargers-Bears game from Nov. 27th, the one in which the Bears hustled their way into five red-zone trips … only to settle for 12 points.

One play, in particular, stuck with me; few plays were able to accurately paint the picture of sometimes overly-cute play calling and lack of proper personnel all in one. Take notice of how Chargers’ All-Pro defensive back Desmond King II covers two players at the same time because of the lack of spacing. And they still almost scored.

Philip Rivers walked off of Soldier Field that day with the look of a man who’d either accidentally just won a professional football game, or couldn’t really understand how he’d done so. And rightfully so. But little did we know at the time, the moment was only seminal; the Bears’ problems in the red zone were just getting started.

By season’s close, the Bears were only able to score touchdowns in the red zone on 52.2 percent of their attempts, a number that dropped drastically over the home stretch to just 22.2 percent. In caveman terms, for every say, ten times the Bears got inside their opponents’ 20-yard line, they merely settled for field goals on about eight of those possessions, a surefire way to lose games.

That’s become one of the underrated differences between this past year’s team, and the 12-4 version of 2018-19. Last year, they scored on 63.2 percent, which would have ranked No. 8. And on that play call above, some of those problems are illustrated. Players running the same routes — seriously, you’d find more space in a can of sardines. Easy-to-detect player motions, lack of situational awareness, you name it.

Should the Bears look to return to meaningful football in January, diagnosing this problem should be near the forefront. The Bears are entering the offseason in need of a million or ten, with a few ways to do it. They sit on about $5.5 million at the moment. If they elect to clear up funds, how could the Bears spend that green in hopes of improving their red zone effectiveness?