Vic Fangio's 'D' is under fire while the Bears' offense continues piling up points. That's not exactly a sentence we expected to type in the final week of October, but here we are.
Surely you know by now that Fangio's once-vaunted 'D' has permitted 69 combined points while generating merely one sack during the two-game slide despite the Bears averaging 30 points and nearly 460 yards of offense in Miami and vs. New England.
Sunday's visit from Jets top pick Sam Darnold, then, comes at a time when the Bears 'D' could really use a resurgent showing. It's reasonable to say that the timing is fortuitous with Tom Brady the last quarterback to face the Bears, who have seen three Super Bowl-winners behind center in the first six games. But it got us thinking: How has Fangio fared in his coordinating career against rookie signal callers?
Before we share what we hope you'll agree is interesting data, let's hedge a bit: Fangio has coordinated five different NFL clubs over a two-plus decade span. This is nothing if not an inexact science, as countless factors go into every game's result. Heck, take just last week for example, when Khalil Mack was a nonfactor because of injury and the Bears' special teams was responsible for surrendering only one less touchdown than Fangio's defense.
Nonetheless, we can certainly look at the individual quarterbacking statistics against Fangio-led defenses in addition to simply noting the won-lost record to get at least a general feel of how things have gone.
In 23 games against starting rookie signal callers, Fangio's clubs are 15-8. Here's the breakdown by team: 2-2 with the Bears; 4-2 with the 49ers; 1-4 with the Texans; 3-0 with the Colts; and 5-0 with the Panthers.
Notice that after a combined 8-0 start in his first two coordinating stops, Fangio is only 7-8 since. Again, many factors go into this, including the quality of opponent. The Bears ran into a buzzsaw two years ago in Arlington vs. Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and a devastating Cowboys O-line, but they also dealt the hapless Browns under DeShone Kizer and Hue Jackson loss No. 15 on Cleveland's road to 0-16 infamy last season.
The best rookie passing performance vs. a Fangio-led defense arguably (and perhaps unsurprisingly) was Russell Wilson's debut vs. San Francisco, a 15-of-21, 4-TD, 1-INT dissection of the Niners in a blowout win. The worst has to be from former seventh-rounder-turned-Arena League champion Tony Graziani, who with the Falcons in 1997 completed only 4-of-18 for 24 (!) yards no touchdowns and two picks in a loss to Carolina.
The cumulative totals of the 23 rookie QB performances: 368-of-681 (54 completion percentage) for 4,248 yards, 29 TDs, 24 INTs, 63 sacks taken and a passer rating of 72.6. That second-to-last stat might be of particular interest to Bears fans who have spent the better part of the past two weeks forming search parties to locate Chicago's pass rush.
Fangio-led Bears defenses have totaled only four sacks on rookie QBs — Kizer (1), Prescott (0), Carson Wentz (2) and Jameis Winston (1). Conversely, in five games with Carolina, Fangio oversaw the sacking of Tony Banks (10 times over two meetings), Danny Wuerffel (7), Graziani (1) and Peyton Manning a combined 23 times. Fangio's Colts totaled 14 combined sacks of Akili Smith, Brock Huard and Donovan McNabb.
So, 37 of the 63 sacks (58.7 percent) came in 34.7 percent of the total meetings, all Fangio wins. Which brings us to Sunday at Soldier Field, where Fangio a week ago drew the ire of many Bears fans for his strategy of primarily dropping his two best edge rushers, Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd.
Darnold, whom resident QB expert Mark Schofield broke down to a tee here, has given the football to opponents 11 times in his first seven NFL starts and shown a propensity for taking risks. And he'll be without his starting center, Spencer Long, and top three pass catchers in Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson and RB Bilal Powell.
Fangio generally prefers to generate pressure with four men, albeit sprinkling in some sporadic pressures, and mix coverages. But if ever there was a time to stray from that philosophy, our guess is it could be Sunday, when the veteran coordinator tries to get his Bears off the schneid while starting a new streak against first-year passers.