Bear Down, Nerd Up: Current pace puts Bears' passing game among NFL's worst in 3 years

  • Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Clelin Ferrell (99) attempts to block a pass by Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Las Vegas.

    Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Clelin Ferrell (99) attempts to block a pass by Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Las Vegas. Associated Press

By Sean Hammond
Updated 10/12/2021 6:58 PM

Among the NFL's eight 3-2 teams, FiveThirtyEight's prediction model has the Bears with the second-worst odds to make the playoffs. Their 27% odds best Carolina's 26%. FiveThirtyEight projects both teams to finish 8-9.

Sunday's win over the Raiders was big, but let's not sugarcoat it. The Bears still have some serious issues to figure out offensively. The positive vibes are good after a big win, however, this is not the time to become complacent.


The Bears (or maybe head coach Matt Nagy) took a long look in the mirror a couple weeks ago and determined the current iteration of their offense is the best path forward. Multiple tight ends, six -- even seven! -- linemen at certain times, run the ball well and don't make mistakes. I'm not arguing they're wrong. Nobody wants to relive Week 3 in Cleveland again.

Pick up the pace: The Bears' passing attack is on pace to be NFL's the worst in a long time. The bright side is the Bears have a lot of season left.

Through more than a quarter of the season, the Bears are averaging 113.2 passing yards per game.

The last NFL team to average fewer passing yards per game for a full season was the 1992 Seattle Seahawks, who finished 2-14 while averaging 111.1 passing yards. The worst passing attack in the NFL in 2020 -- the Baltimore Ravens -- averaged 171.2 passing yards. The Bears are last in the category by a wide margin. New Orleans ranks 31st with 169.4 passing yards per game.

It has been a decade since an NFL team averaged fewer than 140 passing yards per game throughout a full season. The 2011 Jacksonville Jaguars, who went 5-11, averaged 136.2 passing yards per game.

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Averaging 113.2 passing yards per game seems unfathomable. A whopping 25 NFL teams are averaging twice as many net passing yards as the Bears. Two 1-4 teams, the Giants and Colts, along with two winless teams, the Lions and Jaguars, are averaging 100 more passing yards per game than the Bears.

An inauspicious streak: The Bears have yet to throw for 200 net passing yards as a team in any one single game. Justin Fields threw for 209 yards against Detroit in Week 4, but two sacks lost yards and the team finished with 185 net passing yards. Sack yards go against the team's passing yardage, but not the quarterback's passing yardage.

The last time the Bears went five consecutive games without totaling 200 net passing yards was the final two games of the John Fox era in 2017 and the first three games of the Matt Nagy era in 2018. Splitting the streak between seasons, the current streak is six games, counting last season's playoff loss to New Orleans.

The last time the Bears had such a five-game stretch in one season was 2009, according to Pro Football Reference. Between Week 11 and Week 15 of 2009, with Jay Cutler starting, the Bears never totaled more than 195 net passing yards. Cutler threw 8 interceptions and the Bears were 1-4 in that stretch.


Lack of space: Among pass catchers with a minimum of 13 targets, Allen Robinson is tied with San Francisco's Brandon Aiyuk for the lowest average separation from the nearest defender, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Teams are working to smother Robinson. He has an average separation of 1.7 yards.

For the season, Robinson has 17 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown. His lack of production says more about the Bears offense than it does about Robinson.

"Everything that may be best for me may not be best, situationally," Robinson said last week.

Robinson caught four passes Sunday for 32 yards. He had not caught more than three passes the previous three games. His last such streak was in 2016 with Jacksonville.

Snap adjustments: Linebacker Danny Trevathan played 10 snaps in his return. Trevathan was making his season debut after opening the year on injured reserve with a knee issue.

Other notable snap count totals included running back Khalil Herbert with 34 snaps, most among running backs. Damien Williams' 31 snaps was just behind him.

Tight end Jesper Horsted -- who caught Fields' first career TD pass -- played two snaps.


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