(This is not breaking news. It is, however, one observer’s more extended look at the two clearest reasons for the Bears’ 2016 season going as it has.)
Numbers and statistics do not exist or come from a vacuum, so isolating any of them can miss a bigger picture or reality. But in the case of the 2016 Bears, the overall is not hard to figure out. It is, however, difficult to fix, which is why the Bears continue losing (five out of the last six) despite certain positives, ones that cannot offset the two core issues behind the Bears’ dismal season.
First, some context:
The Bears are one of only six teams who rank in the top 15 for both offense and defense, based on yardage output.
|New England||No. 4||No. 10|
|Pittsburgh||No. 7||No. 8|
|Arizona||No. 9||No. 4|
|Dallas||No. 5||No. 13|
|Seattle||No. 14||No. 6|
And the Bears, who moved into the top 15 with their 449 yards against Green Bay, and still rank No. 9 defensively despite allowing 451 yards to the Packers.
Four of those six teams are leading their divisions: New England by three games, Pittsburgh by one, Dallas by two, Seattle by four.
So what is the problem with the Bears? Two problems, actually. One, the Bears are playing on a longer field. Bears opponents have 19 scoring drives of 50 yards or shorter. The Bears have six.
Two, for all of the sparkle Matt Barkley has brought to the offense, they are playing without the requisite quarterback firepower.
Re. the first: The biggest is a long-field issue. Takeaways. The Bears defense and special teams have simply not gotten footballs loose, or special teams managing returns to give the offense a short field to work with.
None of the other five top-15’ers are worse than minus-1 in turnover ratio. The Bears are minus-11. No team has fewer than the Bears’ three interceptions, nor than the Bears’ 10 total takeaways, on pace for an all-time franchise-low.
“It is a problem and we’re not getting enough takeaways, that’s for damn sure,” said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “It’s one of the reasons we have the record we have.”
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
The Cardinals are suffering through a 5-8-1 season with the same minus-one turnover ratio as the Seahawks.
But the Bears and Cardinals are the only two of the six with starting quarterbacks posting passer rating lower than 90. Carson Palmer is down at 85.8, and the Bears troika of Barkley-Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer are a combined 85.1.
Perhaps the single biggest reason the 1980's Bears won just one Super Bowl, by consensus of members of those teams, was the inability to keep their quarterback (Jim McMahon) healthy. The 2016 Bears, now on their third starting quarterback, are a distant echo of that team malady.
Barkley’s 75.2 warrants an asterisk because of the avalanche of dropped passes (18 over one three-game period), but the net effect on Bears quarterback play is apparent, and reflected in lost chances for wins.