LAKE FOREST – If you looked at the offensive production from a yardage standpoint, you might think happy days are here again.
When if comes to a Bears offense over the past few weeks, these could be some of the happier days in franchise history.
The past three weeks quarterback Brian Hoyer, filling in for the injured Jay Cutler, has three times eclipsed the 300-yard passing mark. That’s a first in the history of a franchise known more for its ground game and, frankly, ineptitude throwing the ball through the years.
But you’ll hardly find anyone celebrating around Halas Hall these days despite Hoyer’s near heroics the past few weeks. The team is sitting at 1-4 and occupying the basement of the NFC North. That’s because there are a few numbers hidden in the offense that are preventing the biggest number from growing.
A 522-yard effort-including 397 from the arm of Hoyer-was marred by ten penalties for 80 yards against the Colts. While the offense had just one turnover, Cameron Meredith’s 4th quarter fumble deep in Indianapolis territory led to a critical field goal in the six-point loss.
“I think our running game is improving. I think our passing game is improving,” said John Fox on Wednesday, first pointing out the positive gains with the unit. “Overall offensive production, not necessarily in the points category yet, which is pretty critical.”
Primarily it is the reason the Bears don’t at least have another win during this impressive offensive stretch. The offense in the Cowboys game started slow before heating up in the second half but still had 6 penalties for 45 yards.
It got even worse during the Lions game – so far the Bears only win of the year – when the team got 10 penalties for 76 yards. Those spoiled a number of Bears’ scoring drives as the unit got just 17 points, which was just enough to nudge out a three-point victory.
Against the Colts the penalties were even more costly. A drive inside the Indianapolis five-yard line on the opening drive was pushed back by a facemask that forced a field goal. The Bears would accumulate nine more of them over the course of the game, with 80 yards of ground lost because of them.
“It’s a physical game, physical penalties happen, that’s something where you try to refocus on technique,” said Hoyer of correcting the penalties. “The penalties you don’t want to have are the mental ones – the false starts, the delay of games, things like that.
“That’s the stuff you can eliminate and it doesn’t take any talent to do that.”
Meredith showed some of his talents to the Bears on Sunday as he led the team with nine catches and 130 yards receiving along with a touchdown. Even after the fumble the Bears came back to him on the first play of the final drive and was the intended target on the fourth down throw from Hoyer deep in Colts’ territory.
“It means a lot, especially from Hoyer,” said Meredith of the quarterback’s trust in him after the fumble. “He had faith and trust in me to go back to me. Moving forward, it’s a good thing to know.”
Just as Hoyer knows what the offense needs to turn their significant amount of yardage into points from here on out.