The NFL, like any other sport, is enveloped with stats. Which ones will tell the story of success or failure for the Chicago Bears in 2014?
Jay Cutler quarterback rating
Nobody has disputed the fact that Jay Cutler has talent. In fact he may be one of the top five most talented quarterbacks of the past decade. However, the biggest knock on him during his rollercoaster career is inefficiency and bad decision-making, which more often than not has led to high interception totals. If the Bears are going to win in 2014, no stat of Cutler’s will tell the tale better than his quarterback rating. He has never had one over 90 but the highest he’s had in which he started at least 15 games was 86.3. Chicago went to the NFC championship that season.
Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston sack total
The Chicago Bears were dead last in 2013 in quarterback sacks. Part of the problem was a lack of continuity along the defensive line, particularly at the end spots. Julius Peppers finished with just 7.5 sacks and no player who started at left end opposite him had more than five. That has to change if the team is going to start playing good defense again and it will be on the shoulders of Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston. Allen is a proven pass rusher who averages double digit sacks every year but he’s also 32-years old. Houston is a physical specimen with outstanding power but has never had more than six sacks in a season. How these two overcome those obstacles will tell a big story in 2014.
Number of names on injured reserve
Last season was a nightmare for the Bears on the injury front. Seven players ended up on injured reserve before the year was done, all of them on defense. That’s not even counting a series of other tough losses that lasted five games or longer such as Cutler and Lance Briggs. There is no question injuries play the most prominent part in whether a team sinks or swims during a season. By comparison the world champion Seattle Seahawks only lost two starters to injured reserve. If Chicago wants to realize their mission of reaching the post-season, guys have to take proper care of their bodies and then just pray for a little luck.
Offensive line in short yardage
The Chicago Bears offense were a bit of a contradiction last season. While they were very explosive throughout the year and were surprisingly effective at converting on third and fourth downs. However, at the same time, they often struggled in short yardage situations. In fact, according to www.footballoutsiders.com the Bears were ranked 30th in the league in “Power Success.” That means runs of two yards or less that resulted in a first down or a touchdown. They only converted 50% of the time. In simpler terms, as good as the Bears were they were not good when it came to picking up the tough yards. In close games, of which they played many last year, that stat can often mean the difference.
Marc Trestman in road games
A very telling stat as far as winning in the NFL is success on the road. Teams almost always can win at home but it’s the test of taking it in a different building against a good opponent and a hostile crowd that molds a champion. The Chicago Bears under head coach Marc Trestman were 3-5 on the road. The division champion Green Bay Packers were 4-4. That crucial fourth win, if fans will remember, came at Soldier Field. If Trestman wants his team to be tougher, it can’t just be physically. Having the mental toughness to win away from Chicago is every bit as important.