No. 2: A better Chicago Bears offense means a fresher defense, too
For all of the numbers and metrics in the NFL world today, football as we know it remains a zero-sum game: for someone to gain, someone has to lose. But for the Chicago Bears, that might not be such a terrible thing.
Allow me to be a hypocrite and use a number here: the Bears defense of 2019 lacked characteristics. For as anemic as the offense was, the defense wasn’t as successful at ending drives on third down, and bringing said anemic offense back onto the field. Opposing teams were able to convert third downs on 36.3 percent of plays last year against Chicago. By the end of the year, that jumped up to 42.9 percent, a bottom-12 rank in the NFL.
The defense as a whole wasn’t far off the 34.9 percent ranking it owned in 2018, but the times they didn’t succeed in stopping offenses on third down were far more memorable. Think the Raiders, Chargers and Eagles games.
And don’t mistake this for me slighting the Bears defense; they were on the field as often as the centerfield logo.
It all roundabouts back to the Bears’ offense. In 2019, here’s where they ranked, as it related to offensive drive sustainability, per Football Outsiders:
— 27.8 yards per drive (No. 29 in the NFL)
— 1.54 points per drive (No. 27 in the NFL)
— 29.2 percent 3-and-out rate (No. 30 in the NFL)
— 46.8 percent punt rate (No. 30)
Does anyone remember the epic Cutty Come Back Jay Cutler song from 2011? It stood as both a parody to Player’s 1977 hit single Baby Come Back, but also as a tribute to Cutler, who had gone down with a torn thumb ligament. Twice a day or so, one of the lyrics enters my mind at random hours of the day:
"“Now Lovie’s telling the entire defense … we can’t give up anymore than 3. Do you think you can … throw left-handed? Desperate as can be. Now we’re down to (Nathan) Enderle…”"
Yeah, it’s funny. Hilarious, even. But, I can’t help but draw parallels to the 2019 defense. That defense was tasked with untenable pressure, trying to manage the game and keep it close enough with the hope that the offense would finally come. And, spoiler alert: they never did.
Could anyone have blamed someone like Khalil Mack if he suddenly decided he’d much as rather stay on the field and play tight end for the Bears in 2019? Maybe it’d have been worth the shot, given how much difficulty the Bears’ offense already had staying on the field long enough.
But, if the April optimism hasn’t worn off in June, and we’re still certain that this year’s offense can at least approach a middling, normal-looking NFL offense, that can stay on the field and more importantly, give us a fresher, more-energized version of the Bears’ defense we know and love. In Foles we trust?