Who doesn’t appreciate a good idiom, right? You know, idioms - expressions that aren’t meant to be taken literally - like someone having “cold feet.” The person doesn’t literally have feet that are actually cold, he or she probably has second thoughts and serious doubts about committing to something. “To the nine” is an English idiom meaning, “to perfection,” or “to the highest degree.” Unfortunately, for the Bears and Rams, a combined 9-9 win/loss record has a meaning that is now more mediocre than perfection.
Some of the best idioms are football sayings like, “running backs are a dime a dozen.” Clearly the Bears prescribe to this concept, just ask recently released running back Mike Davis… hello, Ryan Nall.
Another popular idiom, “he dropped the ball,” could apply literally to Rams QB Jared Goff, due to his 9 fumbles this season. I don’t want to be guilty of being a “Monday morning quarterback,” so before Sunday’s game arrives, let’s use P.A.W.S. (Predictive Analysis WIth Statistics) to better understand how the number 9 is patterned into this week’s game.
The Los Angeles Rams are struggling at 5-4 and whether or not it’s due to a “Super Bowl hangover” is debatable. What is certain, however, is how irresponsible and careless quarterback Jared Goff has been with the football. His disregard for ball security (9 interceptions/9 fumbles, 3 lost) has led to diminished scoring chances for the Rams, while undoubtedly contributing to several of their losses.
On the season, the Rams are giving up 21.2 points per game; however, over the last 3 games, that average plummets to 12.3 points per contest. Goff didn’t have any turnovers in two of those games, and both of those matches were convincing wins.
Examining the last few games further, we see that Los Angeles is 9th (42.9%) in the NFL in red-zone scoring percentage involving only touchdowns. Coincidentally, the Bears are allowing red zone touchdowns at a 44.4% clip, ranking right behind Rams at 10th in the league.
Obviously, keeping teams out of the end zone is necessary for winning, but for Chicago with their anemic offense, it’s vital. Chicago averages 18 points a game -- the 6th-worst scoring offense and a source of frustration for players, coaches and fans.
Offensive frustration aside, Chicago’s defensive unit keeps them in striking distance as evidenced by the -0.6 scoring margin between points allowed and points scored. Defensively, Chicago has only given up 9 passing touchdowns, placing them 6th in that category league-wide. Currently, the Bears rank 9th in yards allowed per game at 327.3, and over the last 3 contests that average has dipped to 320.3 yards.
Having led with the “good news,” I feel compelled to share the fact that Chicago, on the road, is giving up 374.8 yards per game.
Plainly put, the Bears offense needs to improve dramatically if Chicago is going to make a push for the postseason. Out of thirty-three quarterbacks rated, Mitch Trubisky’s 85.2 QBR is 9th-worst and the team’s 9.3 yards per completion is dead last. Ironically, Goff’s QBR ( 82.7) is worse than Trubisky’s, but Jared and the Rams are 9th in passing yards (2,516).
Despite the turnover turmoil Goff has caused his team, the Rams are still extremely explosive on offense and that scoring prowess makes them dangerous to Chicago.
Faced with injuries to key players and plagued by inconsistent play and questionable coaching decisions, both Chicago and Los Angeles are looking up through a “glass ceiling” (love those idioms) regarding their playoff positioning. In order to go to the postseason dance “dressed to the nines,” the Bears must show up offensively with a game plan Trubisky can confidently execute.
In order to compete Sunday, Chicago must:
● Win on 3rd down in LA, where over the last three games the Rams rank 5th, allowing only a 30.4% conversion rate.
● Continue to feed David Montgomery at the goal line, where his 9 carries there rank 3rd overall in the NFL
● Pressure Goff into more turnovers (Rams have 16 TOs, which is 7th-worst in NFL)
The Rams and Bears are at a “crossroads” of sorts, but neither team can put the “cart before the horse” if they are to contend for the playoffs.