After a Week 8 win over the New York Jets, the Chicago Bears are now in the lead in the NFC North with the first two months of the season in the books. It even feels weird to type and read this. At 4-3, the Bears are in the driver’s seat in the division.
[Photo credits: Mark Busch - email@example.com]
How have the Bears gotten themselves to this point? Well, it’s been a little bit of a surprise. At the beginning of the season, one would have assumed their defense would have carried this team for the first month of the year. However, the offense did much of the heavy lifting, too. Let’s take a look at the seven most important and interesting facts from the Bears’ first seven games of the season.
1. Rushes of 15-plus yards: 15
It is no surprise that the Bears have one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL. They are averaging more than 130 yards on the ground per game, sixth most in the league. What is more impressive is how explosive this run game has been this season. Through seven games, they already have 15 runs of at least 15 yards, the fourth most this season. Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, and Mitchell Trubisky all have five rushes of 15 or more yards this season. It’s one of the most balanced and diverse rushing attacks in the NFL.
2. Drops: 4
One of the most significant areas of need for the Bears this offseason was playmakers at receiver and tight end. The unit needed a massive overhaul. Their receiving corps lacked talent and was one of the least-reliable groups in the NFL. This season, the Bears have been just the opposite. They have a group that is continually making “splash” plays and has been one of the most reliable units in regards to drops this year.
Through seven games, the Bears have only four drops, according to SportRadar. That is by far the fewest in the league. In comparison, the Colts lead the league in drops with 26 in their eight games played. If the Bears can continue to limit the number of mistakes on offense, they should have no problem keeping up with any team in the league.
3. Penalty Yards Per Game: 45.2
Speaking of mistakes, the Bears have limited the number of penalties and penalty yards this season. Through seven games, Chicago is committing just 5.7 penalties per game for an average of 45.2 yards. Both of those statistics put them inside of the top five as they are one of the least-penalized teams in the NFL. Not beating yourself is one of the biggest keys to victory in the NFL, and the Bears have done an excellent job at making the game tougher on themselves.
4. Punt Return Average 11.7 (5th in the NFL)
In my lifetime, the Chicago Bears have usually had one of the best special teams units in the NFL. Though their hiccup in Week 7 vs. New England could cause a few Bears fans to doubt them, it’s an area their team has dominated in again this season. One specific area in which Chicago has thrived is in the punt game. They are averaging 11.7 yards per return, the fifth most in the NFL. Tarik Cohen has been fantastic, racking up 199 yards on 17 returns. He’s not Devin Hester, but he is one of the most dangerous returners in the NFL.
5. Punt Return Yards Allowed: 51
The Bears are consistently making plays in the punt return game, and they aren’t allowing their opponents to gain yardage on punt returns, either. Through seven games, the Bears have punted the ball 25 times. That means their opponents are earning a measly average of two yards per punt return. That is outstanding. If the Bears can continue to keep up this play in the punting game, they are going to be a tough out in the NFC.
6. Second Half Points: 14.6
One of the things the Bears’ offense now is capabe of is putting points up on the board in a hurry. In previous seasons, getting down by double digits in the second half would often be a death knell. However, with Matt Nagy at the helm, his offense can score in a hurry. In 2018, the Bears are averaging 14.6 points per game in the second half, one of the best in the NFL. Not only can they create explosive plays in the passing game, but their running backs (and Trubisky) can change the field position quickly as well. As the season rolls along, there are going to be games where the Bears fall behind and need their offense to score points in the second half. That shouldn’t be a problem any longer.
7. Points Per Game: 27.7
Finally, the most important stat from this season is the number of points per game the Bears have averaged through the first two months of the season. Since 1994, the Bears have averaged more than 25 points per game just twice (2006 and 2013). This season, that number is nearing 28. If Chicago continues to play like this on offense, it has a chance to break a bunch of franchise records. More importantly, this sort of offensive production is what is going to allow the Bears to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2010.