You know what stat has been overlooked from Sunday’s loss to the Packers? Time of possession. The Green Bay Packers held the ball for 37:29 which equates to roughly fifteen more minutes than the Bears—one full quarter. If any NFL team has Super Bowl aspirations the time of possession differential needs to be in closer, or better yet in favor of the offense.
From an offensive standpoint, the Bears never showed any momentum from series to series. Penalties backed up the Bears to third and long countless times throughout the game. It didn’t help the Bears called only nine running plays out of 52 plays called. The Bears had only one first down running the football. Having an ineffective running game means the clock is not running, and the Bears defense does not get enough rest. Out of the 171 offensive plays ran by the Bears this season, 64% have been passes allowing opposing defenses to pin their ears back while playing the percentages. The Bears offense ranks 24th in offensive snaps, and they have only run the ball fifty-one times this season, averaging 3.2 yards per carry. Matt Forte is ranked 24th in the NFL in rushing attempts. For a guy many Bears fans pinned their hopes on, this is not good. The Bears offense needs to control the line of scrimmage and the ball by increasing the number of running attempts per game.
The defense has been the stronghold of this organization for many years. The key to many teams making the playoffs has been their defense. But it is also the job of the offense to be able to control the football for chunks of time. This is what the Bears have been missing. Through three games, the Bears offense has been on the field for only an average of 26:32. In comparison, the Detroit Lions fast 3-0 start can be attributed to their offense spending an average of 34:19 on the field. The Bears’ defense has been in 3rd down situations 43 times allowing the opposing offense to convert only 40% of the time. Having played two Super Bowl contending teams, the Bears’ defense has done an admirable job. Have they been perfect? No. But they have done enough to give the team a chance to win in recent games.
If the Bears’ defense is going to hold up for the entire season, the offense needs to find a way to stay on the field. Twenty-four rushing attempts in the last two games does not get the job done. Four of those attempts were quarterback scrambles for positive yards—after a pass play was called. Teams who have successful seasons are on the positive side of time of possession and ultimately in the playoff picture. If the 2011 Bears have playoff aspirations, then the play calling needs to change.