We hear over and over what a great defense the Bears have; stopping the run, getting pressure on the QB and forcing turnovers – or getting takeaways as my man Lovie likes to say. It’s a more positive feeling for his defense with that spin, as if opposing players had nothing to do with coughing up fumbles or throwing into double coverage. It was all about our guys getting a ‘takeaway.’ Great.
Being wrapped up in the annual hype surrounding our defense’s strengths, I’ve completely overlooked the offense’s inability to take care of the ball. The other day, I heard Hub Arkush during a segment on 670 The Score talking about the Bears’ turnover issues, and during the Lovie Smith era the Bears have the 2nd most giveaways in the NFL.
It’s a disappointing number considering the regularity with which the Bears have run the ball over the last 9+ seasons, and the fact that Lovie hung his hat on being a running team (see blog name). Guys like Thomas Jones (’04-’07) and Matt Forte (‘08-present) have had stand-out seasons. Guys like Cedric Benson and the bad Adrian Peterson have not. A rational assumption would be that the number of interceptions Cutler has thrown in the past 3+ years is driving those statistics up. Surprisingly, you’d be wrong. While Cutler-era picks are higher than the previous 5 seasons, total turnovers are below 30 for 2 consecutive seasons, which has never happened before in Lovie’s tenure. Aside from a 6 fumble sophomore season, Matt Forte has taken care of the ball than any of our runners in the last decade.
Check out the numbers below, with a few key highlights:
- Ron Rivera was running the best defense in the league in 2005 and 2006. Forcing 50 and 56 takeaways in those two years, despite giving the ball away nearly 50 times, the Bears marched to the playoffs and then the Super Bowl in Miami
- During those seasons, the Bears had a combined record of 24-8. Dominating
- Then Bob “Yes Man” Babic took over because Ron wasn’t nice enough to Lovie; Defensive takeaways dropped by nearly half in a 2 year span and the team faded to irrelevancy
- Since 2007, the Bears’ record is a pedestrian 44-39
- Cutler comes in for the 2009 campaign, where he threw a miserable 27 picks, but that number decreased by 20% over the next two years and the bears again became competitive within the NFC North