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27 Sep 2006

Every Play Counts: The Bears' Passing Attack

by Michael David Smith

After Sunday's 19-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings, the Chicago Bears are in first place in the NFC North, and that's no surprise. Just about everyone expected the Bears to repeat as division champions. But what is surprising is that after the defense carried last year's Bears to an 11-5 record, this year the Bears have turned their weak passing game into a strength.

In all three of the Bears' games, opponents have stacked the line of scrimmage to stop running back Thomas Jones (who is averaging only 3.0 yards a carry) and dared quarterback Rex Grossman to beat them. That's exactly what Grossman has done. An analysis of the Bears' passing attack on every play of that win over the Vikings shows that the Bears' receivers are running precise, well-designed routes, and Grossman throws a better deep ball than previously advertised. But the offensive line's pass protection is mediocre, and Grossman still makes the kinds of mistakes that are typical of a quarterback who was only starting his 10th NFL game on Sunday.

Grossman was at his best when Minnesota didn't blitz, giving him time to survey the field. On a third-and-9 deep in Chicago territory, Chicago lined up with twin receivers (Muhsin Muhammad and Rashied Davis) to the left and tight end Desmond Clark in the backfield, also to Grossman's left. At the snap Muhammad ran a deep route along the sideline, Clark ran an intermediate route along the hash, and Davis ran between them. Ordinarily when an offensive coordinator lines up three receivers on the same side of the field, he's hoping the defense won't have enough players there to cover everyone adequately. But Minnesota rushed four and dropped seven into coverage, meaning the Vikings had players available to cover all three receivers. The speedy Davis, a former Arena player who looks like a perfect fit for the Bears, simply ran past cornerback Ronyell Whitaker, and Grossman saw Davis get open and threw the ball exactly where Davis needed it for a 21-yard gain.

The key to the success of the play was the Vikings' decision to rush only four. When Grossman had time to pass, he regularly picked the Minnesota secondary apart. The Vikings blitzed often on Sunday, but they should have blitzed even more. When they gave Grossman time to find Davis and Muhammad, he delivered.

Last season it looked clear that the Bears had overpaid when they gave Muhammad a $12 million signing bonus. Although he was the focal point of the Bears' passing game, Muhammad finished 2005 ranked 81st of 89 wide receivers in Football Outsiders' main statistic for ranking skill position players, DPAR. This year he looks like the player who led the league in receiving yards in 2004. He and Grossman have developed a great rapport, as demonstrated on a second-and-4 on the Bears' first possession, when cornerback Antoine Winfield lined up several yards off the line of scrimmage in man coverage on Muhammad. Grossman saw how much space Winfield was giving, so he threw to Muhammad behind the line of scrimmage as soon as he got the snap. Muhammad picked up three yards. A three-yard completion doesn't sound like anything special, but using the passing game in short-yardage situations is a very effective way to combat defenses that stack the line of scrimmage against the run.

On a second-and-2 later in the game, Grossman and Muhammad hooked up on the same play: Grossman saw that cornerback Fred Smoot was giving Muhammad a big cushion and tossed the ball to him at the snap. The Bears appeared to have a run play called – the offensive linemen and the backs moved as if they expected a handoff to the right – but Grossman knew he could pick up an easy first down if he just flipped it across the field to Muhammad, and Muhammad was ready for the pass because he knew that he and Grossman had read the defense the same way. By exploiting the cushion the Vikings gave Muhammad, the Bears forced the Vikings to play closer to Muhammad, which opened up space downfield.

Later, on a first-and-10, Grossman and Muhammad used that space downfield. Muhammad lined up split to the right, Bernard Berrian lined up split to the left, and fullback Jason McKie went in motion to the left. With the motion drawing the defense's attention from the middle to the left, Muhammad ran in the opposite direction, dragging across the middle of the field and catching a pass for 23 yards.

The routes were well designed, but the key to the play was the pass protection. Minnesota rushed only four and Chicago kept tight end Desmond Clark in to block. That six-on-four mismatch gave Grossman plenty of time, and he was patient enough to wait for Muhammad to get into the middle of the field, behind Minnesota's linebackers but in front of the safeties. When Chicago's blockers outnumbered Minnesota's pass rushers, Grossman almost always took advantage.

But that leads us to Grossman's biggest flaw: when he does feel pressure, he doesn't stay in the pocket long enough to find an open receiver. On a first-and-15, when Minnesota blitzed with both Whitaker and linebacker Napoleon Harris, Grossman sensed the pressure and threw the ball into the turf immediately. Whitaker blitzed from Grossman's right, but Grossman never even looked to his right to see if the cornerback blitz opened up a passing lane to that side. That play was the first of three straight incompletions against a Minnesota blitz.

Too often, when he feels pressure, Grossman backpedals, chucks the ball off his back foot and hopes for the best. Although it's hard to tell a guy who's been labeled as injury-prone to be willing to take a sack, that's what he has to do sometimes, especially considering that throwing the ball away doesn't assure him he won't get hit -- he was hit several times against Minnesota.

A quick look at the stats might suggest that Grossman and the Bears' offensive line actually do a good job of thwarting opposing pass rushes: Grossman was only sacked once against Minnesota and has only been sacked twice all season. But that is mostly because Grossman is far too quick to throw the ball away. Sometimes getting rid of the ball in the face of a pass rush is a wise way to avoid a sack, but throwing too quickly can be a big problem.

The Bears' offensive line also struggled with the pass rush, particularly right tackle Fred Miller. The one time Grossman was sacked, a second-and-9 at the Minnesota 29-yard line, Miller gave up on his block. He looked like he had Darrion Scott beaten early in the play, but Miller quit blocking and allowed Scott to drill Grossman from behind. Left tackle John Tait has always been a good pass protector, and center Olin Kreutz has the kind of quickness a center needs to snap the ball and get into position to pass block in a hurry. But Miller struggles, and the Bears could use an upgrade at both guard positions: Grossman regularly felt pressure up the middle when guards Roberto Garza and Ruben Brown were beaten in pass blocking. Don't let the lack of sacks fool you: Kyle Orton was sacked 30 times on 398 dropbacks last season behind the same offensive line.

The best thing that can be said for Chicago's pass protection is that Jones is very good at picking up the blitz. On one first-and-10 when Minnesota rushed six, Jones kept the blitzing Napoleon Harris from even getting close to Grossman, and Grossman hit Berrian for 21 yards.

In addition to a failure to recognize blitzes, Grossman sometimes looks like he just doesn't see where all the opposing defensive backs are. When Grossman left Florida in 2003, the knock on him was that his height (listed at 6-foot-1, perhaps a bit shorter) would prevent him from seeing over opposing defensive linemen. I generally think NFL scouts place too much emphasis on a quarterback's height, but there were times that Grossman didn't seem to see the Vikings' defensive backs. On a first-and-10 deep in Chicago territory, Grossman faked a handoff to Jones, then rolled to his right and tried to hit Muhammad just outside the right hashmark. But he failed to see Vikings safety Darren Sharper standing there waiting for him, and Sharper dropped what should have been an interception.

Minnesota intercepted Grossman twice. On one, he simply threw a terrible pass. Vikings safety Dwight Smith lined up in the middle of the field and Grossman threw the ball right to him. There were no Bears receivers even close to the play, and Grossman just lamely launched the ball to Smith. On the other, Grossman backpedaled into the end zone because he felt pressured by Vikings defensive end Kenechi Udeze. But Udeze dove at Grossman's feet, and if Grossman had been more poised he could have rolled to the outside before Udeze had a chance to get up and sack him. A more experienced quarterback would have had no trouble buying enough time to get into a position where he could pass safely, but Grossman lobbed it over the head of Jones and into the hands of Antoine Winfield, who strolled seven yards for a touchdown.

Play-action passes are an important part of offensive coordinator Ron Turner's system, and Grossman sells them well. On a first-and-10 at the Minnesota 26-yard line, Grossman's play action drew linebacker Ben Leber in toward the line of scrimmage, and that opened up a huge space for Clark in the middle of the field for an easy first down. The Bears used the same play several times the week before against the Detroit Lions, but Leber still looked unprepared.

Grossman's performances through three games this year are vastly superior to anything he has done previously. Although he still has some growing to do when it comes to dealing with defenses coming at him at full speed, that's to be expected for a player who has spent a lot of time in meetings and practices and hardly any time in live game action. If he stays healthy, the Bears' passing attack will be tough to stop.

Each week, Michael David Smith looks at one specific player or one aspect of a team on every single play of the previous game. Standard caveat applies: Yes, one game is not necessarily an indicator of performance over the entire season.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 27 Sep 2006

108 comments, Last at 30 Sep 2006, 10:57am by bearsfan_eric

Comments

1
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:24pm

I wonder how the Bears passing attack will look when teams stop stacking the line against the run. Of course, when that happens, maybe they can get thier running game back on track.

2
by James C (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:24pm

"Don’t let the lack of sacks fool you: Kyle Orton was sacked 30 times on 398 dropbacks last season behind the same offensive line"

This may be statistically true however there were times last year when I got up to make a drink, maybe a sandwich as well, read a bit of the paper before coming back to the game and Kyle Orton was STILL HOLDING ON TO THE DAMN BALL!!!

3
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:31pm

Good assessment, and it also gives insight as to the Vikings' greatest defensive weakness so far, which is the inability to get a consistent pass rush with only four players, especially at home.

A game like this also makes me wonder about the effect of one play on DPAR. If Sharper makes the rather routine catch on the semi-floating duck that Grossman heaved up on his goal line, and waltzes in for a t.d., giving Grossman two hideous throws returned for t.d.s on the day, what happens to his DPAR? Grossman's DPAR ended up higher than Brad Johnson's on the day, because Grossman had a lot more successful throws, but I have a tough time saying that Grossman actually played better, since a quarterback who makes two horrible passes that are returned for t.d.s really just about destroys his team's chances for victory, and 98 times out of 100 Sharper makes that catch.

4
by sid (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:36pm

Since Grossman has only 11 or so starts in his career, I'm wondering if adjusting to pressure or reading bliztes is something that he will improve at? What quarterbacking skills are developmental and what are more innate? In baseball, for example, it used to be accepted wisdom that players could develop an eye or strike zone control, but now it's thought that it's an innate skill (or at least, for all practical purposes in terms of development, innate).

5
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:37pm

Yeah, James C., until enough charters volunteer to watch games with stopwatch in hand, and measure how long a qb holds the ball prior to feeling pressure, it's going to be really tough to statistically seperate offensive line performance in the passing game from the performance of the quarterback and receivers.

6
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:42pm

Anybody know off-hand how frequently a team wins a game despite having their quarterback yield two touchdowns via interceptions?

7
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:44pm

QB fault is a valid reason for sacks in the game charting project. I use that when the QB holds into the ball too long.

8
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:44pm

double post: There's also coverage sack, I think.

9
by James C (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 12:47pm

Will Allen

It is always going to be subjective as to exactly when a QB starts to feel the pressure (unless maybe you could monitor their brainwaves for flight responses). I would agree that Grossman looked jittery at times (and made a few awful throws) but he often had good reason. I thought that the best blitzes by the Vikes were when they heavily blitzed the interior and then sent a delayed blitzer through the middle afterwards. The blocking scheme just ran out of contingency.

10
by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:10pm

We've not seen the Bears yet in the UK, but it seems as though they have the foundation of a nice offense, assuming Grossman continues to progress and can stay fit.

Against the blitz, were the Bears blocking with 5 or did they run a lot of max-protect, and was Grossman throwing it away before looking for his 'hot' receiver?

11
by Bob Jacob (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:11pm

With the notable exception of the horrible int Grossman threw at the beginning of the 4th quarter, he was much more comfortable in the 2nd half. It appeared that the Vikes didn't blitz any less (about 60% of the time) but the Bears offensive line was more effective at handling the blitz. Afterwards Kreutz said that the Bears had made some adjustments at halftime. But Lovie Smith said they just played better. I wonder who is telling the truth?

12
by dbt (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:35pm

#11: Maybe the adjustment was that they got their asses chewed and played better? :)

If you're interested in re-watching this game with an eye on the comments here, it's on the NFL Network Replay tonight.

13
by DGL (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:35pm

Will writes: "...the Vikings’ greatest defensive weakness so far...is the inability to get a consistent pass rush with only four players, especially at home."

You lost me at the last clause. How does home field affect either the ability of a team to get a pass rush with four players, or the impact of getting (or failing to get) a pass rush with four players? Am I missing something?

14
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:46pm

DGL, the visiting offensive line in a particularly noisy stadium, as domed fields usually are, have a much more difficult time in pass protection, due to inability to hear the snap count. They often go to a silent count, which puts the offensive tackles on an even level with defensive ends in terms of getting off the ball, since they both have to wait for movement by the center. Given that defensive ends usually have more speed and quickness than offensive tackles, a very noisy home crowd really aids a defensive end.

15
by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:48pm

The rollerdome turf is the difference?

16
by Justus (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:51pm

I’m wondering if adjusting to pressure or reading bliztes is something that he will improve at?

I agree...you see this kind of claim a lot, especially from fans (wishful thinking) of the team with the young quarterback. Is there any actual evidence that young QBs learn these skills? After all, there are plenty of journeyman QBs that don't adjust to pressure. And that's just the ones that haven't washed out of the league.

Do QBs learn this skills or do they innately have them, and it is simply obscured by complicating factors in their rookie seasons?

17
by NF (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:55pm

3:

I'm guessing that is an example of why small sample-size is a distorting factor on DPAR. I think statistics in general are probably poor measures of the performance of individual players in a single game, in comparison to thorough film analysis of every play the player was involved in during that game.

This actually raises the interesting question of whether Belichick's staff, for example, relies on film more earlier in the season to evaluate opponents' players than later in the season when they use analysis of all the stats of an opposing player to evaluate him and use some sampling of film just to pick out strengths and weaknesses in his technique.

18
by Mannie Fresh (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:55pm

Let me make a correction...He didnt throw two INT for TD's. He threw one INT for TD cuz he was bout to get a safety and saw that Thomas Jones was in a position to make a catch...and like Brett Farve, he takes risks to make plays

19
by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:58pm

I would argue that Grossman is a dangerous combination of quarterback: the Favre mentality without the (young) Favre accuracy and composure, throwing deep whenever he thinks someone is open, apparently without a real grasp of the coverage. Luckily for him, he's played all NFC North teams, and that seems to work against them. MDS is absolutely right: Grossman is atrocious when there is anything approaching pressure coming at him. He has a tendency to loft throws or throw into coverage without a clear idea of where the ball needs to be placed, for instance.

Part of it may be nerves, or it may be a lack of attention to detail. Some things point to the former (bouncing a pass off an o-lineman's head), and some to the latter (pocket presence, reading coverage). Bears fans should hope it's more the former, since (if I recall from an FO article, and the somewhat-consensus sid alludes to), the latter tend to be innate or somewhat set by the time players reach the NFL.

When he was pressured he was pretty good, but still rather pedestrian. His best throws were to Muhammad in crossing routes in mid- to short-range. He still displays low accuracy in long throws, especially to the sideline, where he usually ends up putting it out of bounds. Most of the longer passes he has been credited with, especially in the first two games (and to some extent in the second half of this past game) were to completely wide-open recievers. Minnisota seems to have improved their pass rush with the blitz well, but their DBs are giving WRs too much room to even be involved in the play, and a lot of the Bears passing renaissance has been throws to WRs with no-one within 5 yards of them.

I agree with MDS that Grossman is very good at play-action. Whether teams are more prone to bite on it because of Chicago's reputation as a running team or because of his mechanics is yet to be seen, but he appears to sell it well.

#13: He's likely referring to the how the MIN line is composed, and the fact that at home they have the speed advantage of turf.

#11: The line did hold up somewhat better in the second half, but Grossman appeared to regress when he had more time. His second half was extremely unimpressive, until a short drive and a pitch-and-catch TD to a wide-open reciever for the TD.

#9: The delayed blitzes were extremely effective. I don't know for sure, but I think part of the difference in the second half was the Bears line being more prepared for it.

#8: It is. Personally, I fault QB for the sack if they react poorly in the pocket or don't look to the dumpoff, and give coverage if they buy themselves some time (or had no chance to near the end of the play) or move well in the pocket.

20
by Jason (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 1:59pm

Are you sure the Smith INT was just a terrible pass? Grossman had a number of other bad incompletions where he was throwing one way and his receivers were breaking the other. I think these are growing pains of a developing offense, a QB and his receivers making the same reads that will come in time. I was thinking the Smith INT was a result of that because with admittedly limited TV angle I thought I saw a receiver underneath breaking on a different route, expecting the ball and then seeing it whiz far behind and over his head. I figure it's much more likely they were thinking differently than it is that Grossman missed him by that much.

Also, Grossman was supposedly trying to throw the ball away on the Winfield pick six. That was also his claim on the INT for a touchback against Green Bay. He definitely needs to learn to REALLY throw it away when he means too, another thing that shouldn't be too hard to learn. The Sharper almost-INT was definitely bad. I agree that Rex has the skills to make all the throws and he's shown he's taking control of the offense. He's not perfect, but he's showing a lot of talent and progressing. If he doesn't throw that pick six and they manage the end of the first half better, it's a 22-9 game, much more dominating score than 19-16.

Speaking of dominating, I'm looking at the Bears schedule and they only have 3 meaningful opponents the rest of the season: Seattle (less so without SA), the Pats and themselves. Anything can happen, but they should definitely be expected to beat all their other opponents, so that means only they'll beat themselves, like more stupid INTs or Steve Smith level brain fart, say against the Cards or Giants. And I'm only giving the Pats some respect for the game being in Foxboro and because Belicheck is a very good game-planner, but I still feel that's the Bears game to lose. I think their last meaningful game will be when Minny comes to Soldier Field, a team they just beat in the dome despite subpar play. They'll be playing to put an exclamation point on the division, probably lock up home field and then coast the next four games of the year, unless of course they get revved up to put Favre to pasture in Week 17.

21
by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 2:00pm

#18: That's a huge part of the problem. He's not Brett Favre. He'll never be. And if he plays like Favre without the same skill set, good defences will eat him for lunch. I'll reiterate what I've always said: "Grossman will fail you, but in spectacular fashion."

22
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 2:03pm

2 points:

1. How does Grossman's height affect his inability to see a DB when he rolls out, as you note he did on the near INT to Sharper?

2. So far this season, the Vikes have been very successful blitzing, esp. on 3rd down. They haven't gotten many sacks, but have forced a lot of throwaways. I wonder how long they can sustain this success, however, before the blitz becomes predictable and good o-coordinators and qbs are able to exploit it. The Vikes are going to have to get that pass rush going from the d-line at some point.

23
by Jason (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 2:21pm

#14 Actually this is a good question and I'm sure I'm not answering it satifisfactorily here, but let's compare Rex and Eli. Eli has more hype and more time playing (though not studying) but otherwise is just as bad (if not worse) at handling pressure, backpedalling, heaving and generally missing targets. Plus, he's just as bad now as he was entering the league. Grossman on the other hand, with those knocks at some point as well has at least improved on those areas over his fragmented career. Vick doesn't appear to have learned a thing about pocket presence or throwing wisely or accurately over all his years. My point is some people continue to sling it as they always have and some do learn to be smarter in the pocket. I think it's more that player's willingness (and coaching has a lot to do with that) and less their ability. I like what Grossman's shown so far in becoming a better QB, taking responsibility, always lookng to correct mistakes. The Vikes D is so much better than the Packers' or Lions', it's no wonder he played a little worse, but he came back in that game and we'll see how he continues to incorporate and learn from these experiences throughout the season. In terms of games played, he's still a rookie and yet leading an offense with barely a running game and a number of inexperienced receivers. So far the results are better than most Bears fans would expect.

24
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 2:29pm

22 and 29

#2

Orton was just managing the game, man.

#4

Reading zones and blitzes and making the proper adjustments is something that QBs generally get better at in their first few years. However, I don't know if it comes from being on an NFL team and getting NFL coaching and watching NFL film (which I'm sure Grossman has done years of by now) or if it comes more from actual in-game experience, which he still needs more of. Probably a bit of both.

#18:

It's funny you should say that. There were reports in 2003 that the Pack was massively peeved because they were interested in drafting Grossman 29th overall. They (and many other people) thought he looked positively Favre-like in a lot of ways, mentality included. So not only did the Pack not get their guy, but he also went to their most hated rivals.

25
by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 2:29pm

#23: The rookie argument doesn't fly. Sure, he's been in few games, but he's been through multiple training camps and preseasons in which he was the starter, and as the putative starter, has had the playbook somewhat molded after his abilities, even under different coordinators.

Most of the mistakes we attribute to rookies are due to poor preparation and lack of both theoretical and practical experience. Grossman only really lacks the final element.

26
by Tom S (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 2:30pm

Great work. 10 games for Grossie? Wow!

27
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 2:30pm

Yeah, Jason, and if the Vikings recover their fumbles, instead of losing them, which is largely a matter of luck, and Williamson doesn't get a phantom PI call, while Sharper doesn't make the sub-par catch attempt, the Vikings likely get a dominant victory along the lines of 23-9. The Bears won, and they deserved to win, but the game was hard fought and closely contested. Whether the Vikings can replicate it in Chicago I don't know (get back to me in a few weeks), but sub-par plays are not something that can be simply discounted, because they often are an indicator of the quality of the player.

28
by MDD (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 2:36pm

"Alexander hopes to play this week"

See link for details.

29
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 2:41pm

Orton was just managing the game, man.

I really wish we could stop being so down on Kyle Orton. He was a rookie, thrown into a very bad situation very early on. And he actually didn't look terrible for the beginning of the season (just replacement-level or a bit below). He got worse as the season went on, sure, but he was a rookie. Most rookies do look that bad.

I mean, you want to bag on someone, bag on Chad Hutchinson.

30
by Der (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 2:44pm

Good read. It should be noted though that one of Grossman's interceptions was the result of a broken route. You can find the information somewhere on either the Tribune or Sun Times website.

31
by Manteo (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 2:53pm

28 - As I commented elsewhere, I don't know much about the power of prayer to help out a team's running game, but I do believe firmly in the power of NOT MAKING YOUR DAMN FOOT ANY WORSE, which is aided by the power of STAYING ON YOUR DAMN CRUTCHES for a few weeks.

32
by Jason (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 2:57pm

#25 ''In terms of games played.'' Also, the is only his first year in which the offense wasn't changed during the offseason. Is he a true rookie? No, and I didn't claim that. He's had a good amount of prep time, even if the offense has changed routinely, but in terms of executing under fire in real-speed NFL games, he's green.

#27 Close and hard fought, yes, but causing those fumbles isn't luck. Missing tackles, I give credit to Taylor, but still most of those should have been made. The Bears gave the first fumble right back and if they didn't recover the second, Minny was about to punt and so they would have had to charge 70 yards instead of 30 with a full two minutes. The Vikes showed up, but the Bears made this game closer than it should have been.

33
by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:00pm

#32: We expect draftees that sit and hold a clipboard for 3 years, going to training camp and watching games and film to come in and be effective after that period with minimal adjustment. How is Grossman's situation different?

34
by Jersey (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:06pm

I completely agree with Jason. Sometimes I feel people cut the leash way too short on young QBs who havn't really gotten a chance to prove themselves. Like Loseman, whose first starts were no worse than Eli's.

Seems like a recurring theme - critized young high round QBs being compared to favorably to... Eli. Yet Eli seems to get soooo much hype.

35
by Jason (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:11pm

#33 It's not so different that he's given a pass Orton is. Still, those years with the clipboard he couldn't practice because he was injured (broken ankle, blown ACL) and who knows how much of his attention was pulled from studying the offense or opposing defense to concentrate on rehabbing. He didn't get those 3 years of practice reps. He certainly didn't get them in a consistent system. That clipboard-holding second stringer is practicing day in and day out for those three years, facing his defense, taking drops, making reads, executing passes. I'm not sure exactly how much Grossman did do with those types of injuries, but it certainly falls significantly short of normal.
For the third time, he's not a true rookie, but he's not a four-year starter either. He's not even a second-year starter.

36
by The Ninjalectual (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:16pm

Damn prayer! Even if Alexander plays, this likely means RBBC which = neither he nor Morris are strong starts. Not that they would have been against the Chicago D anyway...

37
by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:21pm

I imagine that if Alexander plays and is successful, even the most devout in chicago will be cursing God and His miraculous works. ;)

38
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:22pm

Well, yes, Jason, and Sharper, multiple Pro Bowler, should have caught Grossman's hideous throw, and Hutchinson, multiple Pro Bowler, shouldn't have tipped off Tommie Harris (which Harris was quoted as saying after the game) that he was pulling on the play which resulted in Taylor's fumble. Change those plays, and you get a double digit Vikings' victory. I guess the Bears showed up, but the Vikings made it closer than it should have been.

It just doesn't make any analytical sense to take a game like this, suppose a few less sub-par plays by one side, and say the game was closer than it should have been. That is just fanspeak, which, of course, we all engage in from time to time.

39
by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:31pm

I agree with Will's take, as a non-fan. Just someone who watches (and charts) a lot of Bears (and NFC North) football.

40
by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:35pm

#31 -

As a Seahawk fan, I am not on my feet at the moment. I am on my damn knees!

41
by Jason (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:43pm

#38 It's more than those few bigger ''if'' plays that I say the Bears made it closer. It's all the missed tackles (mentioned), the higher than normal penalties (not all due to the crowd noise), a few dropped passes, including at least two on third down, QB and receiver making different reads, which lead to a number of incompletions and one INT. Yes, these things happen. No game is expected to go perfectly, but in a standard Bears performance, half those things don't happen. I'm not discrediting the Vikes role in the Bears subpar play, just that it's far from 100% the Vikes doing.

42
by Marcus (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:46pm

Fnor & Jason: does it really matter if Grossman is judged as a rookie or a fourth-year quarterback? Through the first two weeks of the season he was the top-rated quarterback in the league, and third according to PAR. While nobody really expected him to keep up that level of play, it is certainly better than most were projecting. He looked worse against Minnesota but he still wasn't terrible for the entire game, and he made up for the mistake he made that really cost the team, something that few Chicago quarterbacks in recent memory would've done.

Rookie or veteran, he looks like a quarterback capable of playing at a very high level but who will also make mistakes that indicate a less than total awareness of everything happening in front of him. Fortunately for him, he plays on a team whose defense will be able to save the team from the full impact of most of his mistakes, and the good plays he makes on offense will seem amplified for the same reason. No one's going to nominate him for MVP of the league, but, as a Bears fan, he's got me feeling not quite so foolish hoping for a Super Bowl this year.

43
by Marcus (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:50pm

Plus, I mean, this EPC is called "Bears Passing Atack." When was the last time that phrase could be typed without extra quotation marks around the word "attack"?

44
by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:52pm

#42: You've missed the forest of my argument through the trees. My argument is precisely that he has looked good due to atrocious defencive efforts in the first two games, and did not look good at all this past week, aside from a few plays that happened to determine the outcome.

As for PAR, that's a critical part of my argument. The formula isn't yet adjusted for quality of opponent. I believe we'll see a meterotic fall in the numbers once adjustments start kicking in.

45
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 3:56pm

Jason, nothing is ever a 100% attributed to one team or one player in a football game. Winfield dropped another Grossman pass. As mentioned above, Williamson gets a phantom PI call, which puts the ball on about the Vikings 25, instead of the Bears 45, and no, it doesn't make any analytical sense to say that if the Vikings hadn't fumbled on second and eight, they would have had to punt two plays later.

Look, I know your point is that the Bears are truly a dominant team, and you may be right. Certainly the fact that they kicked the hell out of two sub-par teams is a good indicator of this, because the mark of a truly dominant team is kicking the hell out of sub-par teams. Again, however, it just doesn't make analytical sense to claim that subpar plays in one game are to be discounted when trying to make that larger point.

46
by Marcus (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 4:10pm

#44: "meterotic"? I hope the typo isn't an indication of any subconscious desire for this fall to take place ;)

I would be surprised as well if there weren't a serious drop in Grossman's numbers, but I really don't think he's looked as bad as you say. He's made a number of really tight throws to receivers in coverage and during the Detroit game it seemed like the receivers were consistently catching the ball in stride. If he finishes the season in the top fifteen in terms of PAR, which I think he's looked capable of, I'll be happy. Actually, if he finishes the season at all, I'll be happy... Starting this Sunday will be a new record for him in terms of consecutive starts, if you're really looking for an area in which he is especially anti-Favre.

47
by Marko (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 4:27pm

Excellent analysis, MDS. But why was there no discussion of the winning touchdown drive? On 3rd and 8 from the Vikings 35 yard line, the Vikings rushed 6. One of the six gave less than a half-hearted effort on his delayed blitz, as he sauntered past the line of scrimmage and just stopped when Thomas Jones steped up to meet him. The protection was excellent, and Grossman rifled a perfect pass over the middle to Muhsin Muhammad for 11 yards and a critical first down. As both Dick Stockton and Daryl Johnston observed, Fred Smoot had excelent coverage, but Grossman placed the ball exactly where it had to be.

After a pass to Jones for no gain, Grossman threw the winning 24 yard touchdown pass to Rashied Davis. Again, the Vikings blitzed, rushing 6 (with one of the six again giving less than a full effort and just stopping after crosing the line) and the Bears line provided excellent protection. Davis ran a corner-post route and was wide open at the goal line as nickel back Ronyell Whitaker got turned around and headed for the corner. Grossman saw Davis immediately on the right side, but before throwing he looked to his left to freeze the safety. The pass was perfect, towards Davis' back shoulder so that he wouldn't lead the pass towards the safety coming from the other side.

As a Bears fan, I can't remember the last time the Bears won a game with a touchdown in the last two minutes. Yes, Grossman did make some really bad decisions and some really poor throws. But he came back and made the game-winning pass in crunch time. It's been so long since the Bears have had someone who could do that. You probably have to go back to Jim McMahon to find someone who the Bears had faith in to win the game at the end. That's why Bears fans are so excited. Even though Grossman had never done it before (indeed, he had not even thrown a 4th quarter touchdown before), I had faith that Rex would come through after the defense forced the fumble and got the ball back.

It was a very good, very close game. Both teams made mistakes, and there were lots of bad or at least questionable calls by the officials that hurt both teams (the horse-collar penalty on Alex Brown and the offensive pass interference on Troy Williamson come to mind immediately). So it's pointless to say "if it wasn't for plays X and Y, we would have won by 14 points" or whatever.

48
by Mannie Fresh (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 4:48pm

Why you guys gotta hate Grossman? The Bears dont need a top-tier Qb...all they need to string wins together is a QB that manages the ball and can provide around 16-20 points a game. the ferocious D can handle the rest. I think this game on sunday will either make or break my man Rex

49
by Jason (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 4:51pm

#42 I'm happy with Grossman. I've always thought he'd be good. Yeah, he's still a little jittery, twice he's had costly failed throw aways (but at least he's making the decision to throw it away) and he and his receivers still aren't perfectly in sync yet. Those aren't major flaws. They'll be major if he doesn't correct them, but I'm confident those things will improve. On the positive, well, look at the plays he's made, the big and the routine. I'm not sure what's not to like. Let the guy have more than 3 consecutive starts in his career before labeling him a mistake-prone, perpetually-injured bust. He's been more overbashed and underrated because of his injuries than Eli's been overhyped and overrated by his gene pool. Rex is good. He's just finally getting to show it.

#45 It was 3rd and 8 when he fumbled. No fumble would have made 4th and 11. Vikes punt. I do think the Bears are a dominant team. Yes, I expected the O-line would be better and so would the tackling, then again I thought the passing game would take longer to be this good.

And maybe this goes on the DVOA page, but who's more dominant in all three phases? Indy has a great offense and suspect defense, the Ravens and Jaguars vice versa. Seattle (despite the Detroit game) and the Chargers are really the only ones top notch on both sides (and I'm not even addressing ST, which we know as of now the Bears are lapping the field in). The Bengals and Steelers were expected to be very good on both sides, but have shown regression. This is all in just three game and might change, but right now if the Bears D hadn't given up so many yards so far and the rushing game hadn't been so below average, I'd probably put the Bears second behind SD. While of course I'm a Bears fan, I think that's pretty reasonable. A team is lucky to get 3 scores against them and luckier if one is a TD, so most days a Bears opponent is happy with 13 points, but liklier to be between 6 and 10. The Bears have more than enough offense (and ST) to cover that consistently, which goes back to #20 and that I don't see too many losses on their schedule. Indy (though they've had injuries) gets too much credit with Manning and the Ravens gets too much credit with Ray Ray and McNair. I would say SD, Bears, Seattle, Cincy, Steelers, Indy, Ravens/Jaguars. Ok, maybe I'll let Seattle be 2nd until after Sunday night.

Maybe the first three games are exactly the way the Bears will play for the remainder of the season, in which case they're in the 4-6 range, but I don't think the defense or the o-line (especially run blocking) have really played near their best yet. If they improve a little to last year's standard (and why not, they have all the same personnel), at that point, who could beat them? Yeah, it's another ''if'' exericise and you can play that game with every team, but it's not even remotely crazy.

50
by sam_acw (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 5:03pm

Is there a special NFC North QB school? When reciever 1 is covered wait 2 seconds then throw it really hard at him?

51
by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 5:10pm

Re: 31

Amen. ;-)

Seriously, I hope Alexander sits this week, and that this news is just gamesmanship to force CHI to gameplan around the possibility that SA might play. I'm not even sure it would work in that regard . . . Besides, I'd like to see what Morris can do when he's given the start. He may not be better than Alexander at 100%, but he can't be much worse than what we've seen up to this point in the season. At least Morris ought to be able to hit the holes that the line has opened up.

Nice work, MDS. I didn't see the game, but at this point I feel like I at least have a decent scouting report on what to expect this weekend from the Bears' O. I'm looking forward to the game between two relatively evenly-matched teams, which looks to me like it could boil down to QB play. I'll take Hasselbeck in that matchup.

52
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 5:12pm

My mistake, Jason, which means that one only has to assume another 35 or 40 yards on the winning drive :). I'd imagine that quite a few outcomes to games could change with such an assumption.

53
by Jason (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 5:24pm

Will, there's no guarantee of anything. Maybe Hester runs it back, maybe he fumbles, maybe since there were two minutes left and the Bears scored in under a minute, they could have done the same in two. Your point was about the Taylor fumble being lucky for the Bears and I'm only saying even without a fumble they were getting the ball back anyway.

54
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 5:34pm

Re: 50

You're a bastard. It's really awkward laughing while I'm at work "supposedly" being productive.

55
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 5:44pm

No, jason, my real point was that it makes no sense to discount subpar plays in a game like this as part of an analysis showing that team A is a dominant team. Players and teams do what they do, and they can only be analyzed on that basis, not on what they should have done.

56
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 5:44pm

53: for a team that hadn't scored a TD all day, getting the ball at the opponent's 37 is a big difference from (likely) getting the ball at its own 20 or so. Certainly nothing's certain, but the odds at least signify there's a big difference there.

57
by Fnor (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 5:44pm

Part of a problem I see when talking about QBs in particular is putting so much emphasis on late drives, etc. That pass into the end zone that scores the TD is exactly as important as the one that sails over the WR's head as he's running down the sideline. As far as individual play goes, a few passes, regardless of their contribution to the final result, are just as important as another group of passes earlier in the game, because they could have ended up with the exact same result, but for some reason did not. It's important to remember that when evaluating players: the last drive of the game is no more important than the first or fourth.

58
by Will Alen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 5:57pm

Amen, Fnor.

59
by Tom Brady (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 5:59pm

Re: 57

Nooooooooooooooooo [breath] Nooooooooooooooo!!!

60
by dbt (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 6:25pm

#57:

That's silly. Yes, points in the last 5 minutes don't count more than those in the first quarter, but in the margin for error is less. You can't recover from an interception on your last drive the way you can in the 2nd quarter.

61
by Marko (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 6:33pm

Amen, dbt.

62
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 6:43pm

Of course, if you score enough in the first fifty-five minutes, what you do in the last five doesn't matter at all. In other words, if you could be guaranteed seven points on the first drive of every game, or seven points on the last, and knowing that your memory would be erased as to having been made that offer, the smart thing to do would be to take the seven points on the first drive.

63
by peachy (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 7:04pm

Grossman was certainly a 'gunslinger' in college - sometimes his howitzers into triple coverage would lead to amazing completions, but more there would be a pick (or near-pick), followed by an eruption of Mount Spurrier. I wonder if his current propensity for throwing it away under pressure is due to coaching from more risk-averse NFL coaches... (and after watching Green Bay the last few seasons, who wouldn't be risk-averse?)

64
by thad (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 7:34pm

re 6
Will Allen
No, I don't. But there was a study done in the 1987 football by the numbers book.
It covered all games from 1950- 1986 in which a team returned an interception for a TD.
1077 games
853 wins
204 losses
20 ties
that's an 80 percent winning percentage on just one int for a td.
I am guessing its maybe 90-95 percent for two?

65
by Mannie Fresh (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 8:14pm

who u got...Bears or Seahawks...and by how much?

I got bears 20-17

66
by Smartmonies (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 9:05pm

Great Quarterbacks can elevate the play of the Players around them. Eli is the exact opposite. The talent surrounding him makes him look better. Big Ben loses Burress and wins a SB. Imagine if Manning would lose Burress.

67
by Smartmonies (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 9:07pm

Bears win this game. But lose in the playoffs to the Seahawks.

68
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 9:29pm

65: Seahawks win by a two-digit number.

62: As a Colts fan, I can tell you that I'll take three touchdown drives in the first twenty minutes over one drive in the final two. Every time. It means we don't have to suffer through nailbiters against the Bills, unlike certain other teams.

69
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 9:50pm

Great Quarterbacks can elevate the play of the Players around them. Eli is the exact opposite. The talent surrounding him makes him look better. Big Ben loses Burress and wins a SB. Imagine if Manning would lose Burress.

You mean Plaxico Burress, the man who's ranked below 50th in DPAR in both 2005 and 2006, well behind Loser League favorite Amani Toomer?

FWIW, Burress didn't play the second half of the Seahawks game, and Eli did much better than in the first half (YES, I KNOW THEY WERE DOWN 42-3).

70
by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 9:57pm

Re 29:
The problem is, if you listen to some Bears fans, they will swear up and down - and some did during the preseason - that Orton is the better QB and should be starting. You can't reason with those guys. They'll kepp talking about wins, Bear weather, and getting tough and angry. It's much easier to just tell everyone the harsh truth - Orton sucked and he's not starting a game for the Bears unless Grossman and Griese go down.

Re 33:
This is the first year since he was in college that he's had the same O-Coordinator two years in a row. Spurrier-Zook-Shoop-Shea-Turner. Also, two of those are extremely bad coaches. Really bad. I'm not saying it's a good excuse, but there are some reasons why you wouldn't expect him to be a savvy four year vet.

71
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 10:24pm

It’s much easier to just tell everyone the harsh truth - Orton sucked and he’s not starting a game for the Bears unless Grossman and Griese go down.

I'll say again - that's just way too harsh. Orton's likely not as good as Grossman looks right now, nor as experienced as Griese. But saying he sucks based on his performance in his rookie year is just crap. The vast majority of rookie QBs are horrendous. Alex Smithian horrendous. That doesn't mean they stay that way.

72
by Dan (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 10:50pm

I think this game on sunday will either make or break my man Rex

Never say that about Rex. You're making me jittery - we've been down that road too many times.

73
by Mannie Fresh (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 11:52pm

Orton was a flatout amazing manager of the ball for the skill and experience set he had. Although that might not be good for a team with Suber Bowl aspirations, he did an incredible job of making a ruined season into something fans can be proud of.

74
by Mannie Fresh (not verified) :: Wed, 09/27/2006 - 11:56pm

72. I'm a die hard fan who's super bowl pick in 2003 and 2004 was the Bears...laugh all u want but i bleed blue and orange. I don't mean to say its gonna break him or make him, but you gotta admit that this will either put him in the other "average" qb's OR make this his coming out party on a primetime game....

75
by mactbone (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 12:57am

Re 71:
Right, but most fourth round picks drafted as backup potential become that great either. The Bears didn't draft him because they thought he was a great QB, they drafted him because they thought he could become Gary Kubiak, Wade Wilson or Steve DeBerg.

Anyway, he was bad last year and I don't understand why you think that we should assume that he will get better. You've made numerous jokes about Krenzelian performances and he was a rookie on a really bad team. Is there that much of a difference between the two that you see a brighter career for Orton? If by brighter you mean Koy Detmer level, then yeah sure I'll agree, but that doesn't excuse last year.

Well, it's late and I'm rambling. To summarize; why defend Orton on one season, why not defend Krenzel, and too many people think Orton should be starting so I think it's appropriate to emphasize his suck last year.

76
by Fnor (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 1:00am

#70: I was one of those people. Still am. My argument has nothing to do with toughness or whatever, but with the improvement I saw from him, the fact that he was a rookie in a bad situation and dealt with it decently, and the fact that I don't trust Grossman to stay healthy or mature into a QB that will put the Bears in position to win a SB 2 or 3 years down the road. Yes, that's right, 2 or 3 years. They can pummel the NFC North, but they're not ready for the big time quite yet.

#73: There's no such thing as a game manager. Orton had good throws and bad throws. A lot of them were bad. Most of his throws were short because of the limited playbook. But he showed promise and improved as time went on. I like him for his potential, which I believe is bigger than a 3d year with a history of injuries more near the end of his contract, who will give you about the same performance.

Yaguar and Will highlight the shortsightedness of the "end of the game matters more" argument. There may be more margin for error, or each play has about the same potential to change the outcome.

"Mount Spurrier" is very funny.

And now, levity from FO IRC:
[Towwb]: I'd like to do a quick poll: which is more desirable, Colts-Jets or Chargers-Ravens?
[SmooveB]: "yes"

77
by Paris (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 3:33am

Re: 55

Players and teams do what they do, and they can only be analyzed on that basis, not on what they should have done.

Sure, but isn't talking up the Sharper near-interception just the opposite of what you are purporting here? Furthermore, it is not analytically sound (in my estimation) to assume that if Sharper's near-INT had been made a returned for a TD then the subsequent fourth quarter interception and return by Winfield would still have occurred. Field position and play calls for the remainder of the game would have obviously been altered if the Vikings had scored on the first INT. The actual INT returned for a TD was very much a product of the circumstances of the play (Bears near the Viking endzone, Grossman trying to get rid of the ball rather than take a safety.)

78
by Moses Taylor (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 3:47am

#76:

But he showed promise and improved as time went on. I like him for his potential, which I believe is bigger than a 3d year with a history of injuries more near the end of his contract, who will give you about the same performance.

Excuse me? Got better? In what way? And Orton didn't have a single game as good as Grossman's game against Minnesota. Sure, he'll probably be better than last year, and even if you think Grossman's performance so far is inflated by the poor defenses he's faced (Orton got to face them too last year and didn't do anything at all), there is nothing in the numbers or the scouting report that would indicate he has the potential of Grossman, much less *more* potential.

Yes, that’s right, 2 or 3 years. They can pummel the NFC North, but they’re not ready for the big time quite yet.

That, we'll just have to see about. There's teams in last decade worse than this Bears team that have won it all. I don't think anyone can say they *should* win it, but they definitely *could* win it this year.

79
by Paris (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 3:48am

Fnor,

I'm not sure what tangible improvement you could have witnessed with Orton late last year. He may have some promise of developing into a legitimate NFL QB, but he regressed badly as the year went on. Part of his statistical decline was due to the Bears limiting the playcalls to shorter routes and more rushing attempts. But when Orton did pass, he often badly missed receivers high and showed little touch on his shorter passes (dare I say with his laser, rocket-arm... ;) ) Orton does have potential to develop since a lot of his inaccuracy last year may have been due to struggling with his footwork. He operated out of the shotgun almost exclusively at Purdue and the Bears rarely employ the 'gun in Ron Turner's system. Orton was basically having to learn the mechanics of a drop-back passer while starting games every week. So there is still hope for him to develop.

80
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 10:33am

I think Pat said it best in a previous thread. Orton has Kyle Boller potential. Grossman hopefully has a higher ceiling.

81
by paytonrules (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 10:54am

I've got an article too - and I hope nobody minds me posting the entire thing here. It's my first, so be kind.

Every Play Counts: Cedric Benson

The End.

82
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 10:57am

I’m not sure what tangible improvement you could have witnessed with Orton late last year. He may have some promise of developing into a legitimate NFL QB, but he regressed badly as the year went on.

I've got a feeling most rookie QBs forced to start their first year would regress badly as the year went on - it's a longer season than they ever faced in college.

I really don't think there's ever anything you can take out of a bad rookie first year performance.

83
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 11:38am

Paris, the difference is that I'm not using Sharper's drop as evidence of the quality of the Vikings defense, like, as was done above, using the Bears' missed tackles as evidence of the quality of their defense, by just assuming them away. In contrast, when a quarterback makes hideous, horrible, throws from his own goal lione, that quarterback has made a hideous, horrible throw, whether they are caught or not. Whether or not Grossman would have made the toss to Winfield later can't be certain, but what is certain is that Grossman made terrible, terrible throws from deep in his territory, and that is a very, very, bad thing to do, if one has hopes for one's team being dominant. Sure, change any play in a football game, and other plays may change as well. What doesn't change is a quarterback who, at least on that day, took extremely poor care with the ball deep in his own territory.

Actually, that does raise a question that I'd like to see Aaron address. I've read his assertion that while interceptions are not random, interceptions returned for tds are. I think this must be a reflection of inadequtae data at this point.

Obviously, the odds of a throw, like the one that resulted in an interception by safety Dwight Smith, being returned for a td, are far, far, lower than the throw that Sharper dropped. I can guarantee, even if it were not the case that the first throw was a result of a wr changing his pattern, that offensive coordinator Turner is not counseling Grossman that the first throw was as bad as the second. Some bad throws are much more dangerous, in terms of affecting a qb's team's chance of victory, than other bad throws, no matter when they happen in a game.

84
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 11:43am

68

Yeah, I agree. Seahawks by 20+. Both the seahawks and bears have very good defences. Seattle's offence is leagues above Chicago's though.

Not only will this be the toughest offence the bears have played yet, it'll be the toughest defence. The Bear's D is going to spend a LOT of time on the field.

85
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 12:11pm

Will:

The fact that an interception returned for a TD is more likely when you're in your own end zone isn't that important - any turnover when you're that close to your own end zone is likely to result in a score by the opposing team.

Turnovers near the edges of the field (near the goals) are slightly more valuable than turnovers near midfield for basically that reason. So Grossman's interception there was about as bad as him throwing an interception in the end zone of the other team - in one case, he gave the other team an easy 7 points. In the other case, he would be costing his team an easy 7 points.

86
by Grim Jim (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 12:43pm

re:68
Seahawks by 20+? I'll take the Bears and the 20 points if your accepting wagers.

87
by Grim Jim (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 12:46pm

And by 68 I mean 84.

88
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 12:51pm

40: If you had gotten to that position in front of the officials before the Steelers and their fans did, perhaps you would be cheering for the defending champs now.

Anyway, is there something to which we can attribute Muhammad's rebound? Is it because of the QB situation? At this point Grossman is (or at least has no excuse not to be) better than Orton was last year, so does that have the coaches opening up the playbook more and allowing him to use more of his talents?

Is the difference for Grossman between when he has time and not significantly more than for an average QB? If so, should the Bears incorporate more max-protect schemes than others?

I have to side with Pat on the "lay off Orton" deal. Yeah, he sucked big-time. What else would you expect from a mid-round rookie who didn't get starter reps during camp? We should expect Grossman to be better. He was more highly regarded coming out of college (1st round vs. 4th), and had a few years to learn, even if mainly from film and observation, plus some actual NFL experience. And since one of the biggest struggles young players face is getting used to the speed of the pro game, Grossman even had a huge advantage there. I mean, he played in the SEC, which I hear is actually much faster than the pros - those sounds you hear aren't collisions, they're sonic booms. Meanwhile, Orton played in the Big Ten, which doesn't have a single player capable of running the 40 in less than six seconds. Not a single one. The south is just plain faster. (Can I be a college broadcaster now, please?)

89
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 12:56pm

Absolutely, Pat. I guess my point is that there is still some distance to go in differentiating between degrees of harm caused by interceptions. I know hail mary ints are already being discounted, and perhaps other deep throws which are picked off are as well.

The grand prize winners in horrible ints, of course, are the bad throws into or near the opponents' end zone, which not only take points, if only a chip shot field goal, off the board, but are returned the length of the field for a td. If Brady's toss to Champ Bailey in last year's playoff game is treated the same statistically as one of his other ints in that game (I think he had more than one, didn't he?), then that is an area where perhaps more detailed charting can provide better statistical analysis.

90
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 1:08pm

To add on, pat, throwing an interception involves a degree of player choice that fumbling does not, thus making fumbling a more random event; an individual player's care in handling the ball while running with it has much less variability than a qb's deliberate choice to throw the ball to a particular place on the field, or at least it seems to me.

It would be interesting to compare rates of variability between propensity of an individual player to fumble and the propensity of an individual qb to toss interceptions. While there certainly have been players who have greatly changed their propensity to fumble, like Tiki barber, my guess would be that the propensity of individual qbs to throw ints has greater variability.

91
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 2:10pm

Wait, though, throwing an interception and recovering an interception are both skill-related things. That's pretty obvious. What's probably random is the length of the interception return, especially given the DB has no control over the offense's alignment, and thus it's really luck whether or not the DB has an open lane to the end zone.

My guess would be that the QB doesn't really have any control over it either, although one could imagine that better QBs know not to throw passes which would give an interception lane for a touchdown, for instance.

my guess would be that the propensity of individual qbs to throw ints has greater variability.

I dunno. McNabb, for instane, historically has had a fantastically low interception percentage, and that just hasn't changed much at all. Here's his interception percentage by year as well as quant. error: 1999: 3.2+/-0.4%, 2000: 2.3+/-0.1%, 2001: 2.4%+/-0.2%, 2002: 1.7%+/-0.3%, 2003: 2.3%+/-0.2%, 2004: 1.7%+/-0.2%, 2005: 2.5%+/-0.5%.

Every year (save his rookie year) is pretty consistent with 2.1%, which is the mean for the non-rookie years. Basically, if you assume McNabb throws interceptions at a rate of 1 interception every 47 passes, except for his rookie year, the most you'd ever be off by (in 2000 and 2004) is 2 interceptions.

I don't know how it is for other QBs, but that's insanely stable.

92
by Jason (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 2:11pm

Hawks by 20? The Hawks would be lucky to score 20. They only put up 21 against Arizona. The Bears put up 34 against Detroit. Even Green Bay put up 31 against Detroit. But, the Hawks only put up NINE! Eli was nice enough to hand the Hawks 3 TDs in the first quarter, but how bad/foolish was Hasselback in the second half? The Hawks' offense is how much better than the Bears'? The Bears have the edge in all three phases, plus home field. Hawks by 20? Ha.

93
by MDD (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 2:51pm

SEAHAWKS neg a tiv turdy tree

DITKA fordy tree

94
by Another Jake (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 6:43pm

re: 92, the Bears have the edge in all 3 phases? The meat sweats have you delirious, boy.

95
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 7:06pm

Pat, it seems to me that different types of interceptions, as a result of the where the quarterback chooses to throw the ball, carry different risks of a harmful return. A pass thrown into traffic in the flats under duress carries with it a higher degree of risk than a throw made under duress into traffic 30 yards downfield. I just wonder whether these decisions, if they were tracked, would show that some qbs expose their teams to a higher risk of harmful return, due to qb decision making, thus meaning that touchdowns yielded via interceptions is not a random event. This analysis would have to adjust for opponent, score, time remaining, home field advantage, and probably some other factors I haven't thought of.

Culpepper, and perhaps Favre, may be counterexamples to McNabb.

96
by thad (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 7:09pm

"Here’s his interception percentage by year as well as quant. error:"
Pat, I am not sure what you mean by the quant. error part.
Could you explain it?

97
by calbuzz (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 8:03pm

92. Quiz time

Q. Is Rex Grossman less likely to give up 3 INT's vs the Hawks than Eli Manning?

Q. NYG lack of Sacks vs. IND, PHI, SEA, indicates quality of the o-lines, or feebleness of the NYG passrush?

Q. CHI scoring due to inherent quality of NFC North defenses, or inherent quality of CHI offense?

My answers to these questions all favor the Seahawks. The Seahawks do have problems on offense against "Tampa 2" defenses, but will be able to outscore the Bears.

98
by Jason (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 8:09pm

Re #94
Clearly the Bears have the edge in ST and defense, so obviously you disagree about the offense. Last year Seattle's offense was great and the Bears not so much. Too bad it's 2006 and not 2005.

Seattle's o-line (including TE) is nothing what is was last year
(departed or injured) and the receivers as a whole are generally good, but not as great as most people would have you believe. Bring on the four receiver sets, let Tillman, Vasher, Brown, Manning I, Manning II, Briggs and Urlacher handle them while Seattle leaves their fragmented line all alone to face the Bears rush.

The Bears OTOH upgraded from all-time bad QB to NFC Offensive Player of the Month (yeah, that's right), added Berrian, Davis and Clark to the passing attack, not mention Moose is playing back up to standard.

Discount the Bears O for Clark being questionable, but discount Seattle's much more for Alexander being out.

And if you like numbers better, the Bears offensive DVOA rank is 6th. The Hawks, 16th.

99
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 8:25pm

Pat, it seems to me that different types of interceptions, as a result of the where the quarterback chooses to throw the ball, carry different risks of a harmful return.

I'm not sure that's as clear as you think it is. A lot of whether or not an interception gets returned for a touchdown has to do with the positioning of both the offense and the defense, as well as the quality of the offensive team's tackling. No one really has control over any of those, making the whole thing very likely pretty much random.

Pat, I am not sure what you mean by the quant. error part.

Quantization error. You can't have half an interception. The error quoted there is 1 divided by the number of attempts in a year.

Probably the one statistics point I have to explain here more than anything else is that when you've got small numbers of things, quantization error can be pretty large.

100
by Jason (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 8:32pm

Re 97

A) Yes, less likely. As mentioned above Eli's overrated and not improving. Rex, overall, is getting better with his decisions, not that he's perfect. Eli just throws and throws and hope his receivers bail him out. Burress did in OT against the Eagles, not so much against the Hawks. So far, at least, Rex is lobbing up jump balls in double coverage.

A) Actually, I think Peyton doesn't deserve enough credit for being smart with the ball. He finds his receivers quickly and delivers. If it's not there he waits until it is or he has no more time left and then gets rid of it. He's derided for being the anti-Vick, which I find amazing because that's a good thing. Sure, Peyton doesn't break long runs, but he does move around the pocket well, throws accurately and knows when to get rid of it. Vick on the other hand fleas too quickly and actually runs himself into a tackler quite often. And if he ever does throw it, it's 50/50 whether it'll actually be within a receiver's reach. McNabb used to be Vick, trying to make plays as soon as he couldn't find a receiver. Now he uses his mobility in the pocket as opposed to breaking it to buy time to make a pass (an accurate one). Hasslebeck is generally known as a good decision maker, too and basically plays as a Peyton-lite. NYG's lack of sacks probably has to do with the opposing QBs' style as much as anything. They're good at finding receivers, good in the pocket and smart about not taking sacks.

A) Huh? The Vikes D is vastly improved. The Lions D is good or bad? Because they shut down the Hawks.

101
by Jason (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 8:34pm

Correction to 100: Rex is not lobbing up jump balls into double coverage.

102
by thad (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 8:35pm

Thanks Pat.
I would respond with a super snappy comeback about Bledsoe's low quant error but am too scared to look:)

103
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 9:56pm

Now he uses his mobility in the pocket as opposed to breaking it to buy time to make a pass (an accurate one)

McNabb's still not a tremendously accurate passer. The difference, though, is that he's smart about where to throw the ball. In addition, though, the one thing he does that not a lot of people realize why, is he errs on the side of throwing the ball too low. McNabb's certainly got the arm strength, and the problem with being a touch inaccurate is that if you throw too high, the ball sails, and who knows where it's going to end up. Throw it a bit low, and it'll just bounce harmlessly off the ground.

Really, it'd be interesting if there was an FO article about interception percentages, and maybe eventually an adjusted stat for interception percentages, like adjusted sack rate. It's funny that the quarterback with the all-time record for lowest interception percentage (with significant attempts) is pretty much just a totally mediocre quarterback (Neil O'Donnell) - and one who's best remembered for two interceptions which lost the Steelers the Super Bowl.

104
by Marko (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 10:13pm

"Anyway, is there something to which we can attribute Muhammad’s rebound? Is it because of the QB situation? At this point Grossman is (or at least has no excuse not to be) better than Orton was last year, so does that have the coaches opening up the playbook more and allowing him to use more of his talents?"

Yes, what you have identified is part of it. Grossman clearly is better than Orton, and the coaches are using MUCH more of the playbook this year. Last year, the coaches said that they had scaled down the playbook so as not to overwhelm Orton. Last year, Orton simply was asked not to lose the game - to let the defense control the game and take advantage when the defense put the team in good field position. This year, the offense is being asked to do much more on its own, and has delivered so far.

Grossman and Muhammad also seem to have a really good rapport. They clicked from the start last year, and Muhammad said when he signed with the Bears that one reason he chose them was that he really liked Grossman. (Of course, the fact that the Bears offered such a huge contract played a part as well, I'm sure.) Muhammad has consistently supported Grossman, and the two of them seem to communicate very well.

Muhammad and Orton never really clicked. If you remember the Bears game against Atlanta late last year (which was on ESPN), Muhammad was visibly frustrated with Orton on several occasions, and Orton was replaced by Grossman for the second half in Rex's season debut. (That game wasn't the first in which Muhammad expressed frustration with Orton, but he was more demonstrative than he had been before. His frustration level was probably increased because for the first time all year, Grossman was healthy and able to play, and you could tell he wanted Rex in there rather than Orton.) On Rex's first play, he threw a strike to Muhammad for over 20 yards.

Some more factors contributing to Moose's rebound: (1) He lost some weight (I think about 10-15 pounds) and says he came into camp in much better shape because he realized he needed to do so because of his age; (2) he is healthy now, but he played much of last year with a broken bone in his hand - I think he hurt it in game 3 last year against the Bengals; (3) the Bears are getting big contributions from the other wide receivers (Bernard Berrian and Rashied Davis have made numerous big plays) and tight end Desmond Clark, so defenses can't devote 2 or 3 defenders to Muhammad without having to pay for it.

105
by calbuzz (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 10:15pm

100. Well, the Bears held the Lions to 7 points, the Seahawks held them to 6. The traditional stats are surpising similar for the Lions offense in both games. TOP=27min, Pass=

106
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 10:19pm

Yeah, I just have a feeling that further exploration of interceptions might be illuminating.

Special teams are where the Bears are most frequently overlooked.

107
by calbuzz (not verified) :: Thu, 09/28/2006 - 10:19pm

100. Well, the Bears held the Lions to 7 points, the Seahawks held them to 6. The traditional stats are surpising similar for the Lions offense in both games. TOP=27min, Pass~210, Run~45. Using common opponent as a measure, then, the Bears have the better offense, and the Seahawks have the better D. ;^)

108
by bearsfan_eric (not verified) :: Sat, 09/30/2006 - 10:57am

MDS -
Very helpful and insightful discussion about the Bears passing attack(!).

#43 I agree that it has been so long since the Bears had much passing threat (back to the Kramer years?).
I am surprised looking at the defensive DAVE to see the Seahawks and Bears defenses at very similar levels in both rushing and passing (I believe SEA 1 rank ahead in each area, with last year performance causing CHI to be one better in overall defense rank). IMHO, Sunday night's game will be a very good game start to finish, and I think the Bears will win a close, hard-fought game. I do think Holmgren has some surprises for the Bears, and Branch can be the guy who breaks my heart if the 'Hawks win.
I, for one, hope Rex stays healthy and Orton has YEARS to develop - I appreciate that he won games as a rookie starting quarterback, but I think he was the single most effective player for the opposing defense in every game he played last year. And I blame the Bears front office for thinking Chad Hutchinson was a legit backup QB if Rex went down. I think the Bears are doing an amazing job building and retaining the defensive players for a long run. They are still counting way too much on young receiver talent (Berian has been surprisingly effective, not sure if there is a viable #3 receiver yet - Bradley in the future?). And the O-line is OK for now, but depth is an issue (when is it not in today's NFL?). I am worried where replacements will come from over the next two years as the O-line continues to age. Hoping for a great SEA-CHI elite team rivalry over the next 2-3 years. GO BEARS!