“Work smarter, not harder.”
Most of us have encountered that phrase at one time or another. The Chicago Bears, apparently, have not.
Chicago, the Packers' opponent Thursday night at Lambeau Field, is struggling to put up points. They are working nearly twice as hard as the league’s most efficient teams in this regard.
Offensively, the Bears appear capable. They are outperforming the Packers in a number of measurables, though that accomplishment doesn’t carry as much weight as it would have in years past.
The Bears boast the seventh most productive offense in terms of yards gained. Their average of 375.2 is far better than that of the 25th-ranked Packers (331.8).
Chicago’s passing numbers are strong. They are sixth in completion percentage (67.2), fifth in attempts per game (39.2), fourth in yards per game (284.2) and second in completions (158).
The Packers rank no higher than 17th in any of those categories.
Brian Hoyer is playing well. Hoyer took over for Jay Cutler after Cutler injured his thumb in Week 2 against the Eagles.
The 31-year-old journeyman, who also played for the Patriots, Cardinals, Browns and Texans, has put up some big numbers. He has completed a minimum of 28 passes and exceeded 300 yards passing in each of the Bears’ last four games.
More impressively, he hasn’t thrown an interception in 189 attempts this season. He is one of 10 quarterbacks with a passer rating (100.8) above 100.
While the skies have been friendly, the Bears' running game hasn’t been as pleasant. It ranks 23rd in yards per game (91.0) only twice having surpassed 100.
One reason for the small output: The Bears are attempting a league-low 21.2 rushes per game. When they do run, their average per carry is a respectable 4.3.
So why haven’t the Bears won more than once this year?
Part of the answer might be found in the team’s bloated YPP (yards per point) average. For all the yards it stockpiles, Chicago should be scoring more points.
The Bears have generated 2,251 yards. They have scored 101 points.
Divide yards produced by points scored. Chicago’s YPP average is a hefty 22.3.
San Diego (12.3), Buffalo (12.5), Philadelphia (12.5) and Minnesota (12.7) own the best YPP averages. The Packers (14.6) rank 13th.
Historically, a YPP above 20 spells trouble. Ten teams finished at that level from 2009 through 2015. Ten had losing records and five won no more than two games.
Since the 16-game schedule was implemented in 1978, no team has reached the playoffs with a YPP of 20 or more. The 1980 Oilers (19.1) and 1982 Browns (19.4) were the only two above 19, and both lost in the first round.
Since statistics were first kept in 1932, the Bears have been above 20 four times. They were losers in 1974 (21.1; 4-10), 1999 (20.3; 6-10) and 2000 (21.0; 5-11); and winners in 1933 (22.3; 10-2-1).
With so many yards and so few points, it’s not surprising that Chicago has posted 20s in each of its last five games. Cincinnati (three) is the only other team with more than two this season.
The Bears registered their only win despite a high YPP. On Oct. 2 they amassed 408 yards in a 17-14 victory (24.0) over the Lions.
YPP averages of 20 or more have been tough to overcome in the Packers-Bears series. Since Mike McCarthy arrived in Green Bay in 2006, the team hitting or surpassing that number has lost nine of 10 regular-season games.
Such was the case in the last meeting. In a 17-13 loss on Thanksgiving, the Packers mustered only 13 points despite totaling 365 yards (28.1). The Bears gained fewer yards (290), but their YPP was lower (17.1).
This season, Green Bay stayed below 20 in its first four games. Not so against the Cowboys where 372 yards of offense translated into just 16 points (23.3).
It has been nearly 15 years since the Packers defeated the Bears with a YPP of 20 or more. On Dec. 9, 2001, Green Bay prevailed 17-7 after generating 352 yards of offense (20.7) to the Bears’ 189 (27.0).
nflgsis.com, nfl.com and pro-football-reference.com were used as references for this article.
Overall: Chicago leads 93-91-6
At Lambeau Field: Packers lead 33-24
Packers: Aaron Rodgers (83-41 overall; 12-4 vs. Chicago)
Bears: Brian Hoyer (16-14; 0-0 vs. Green Bay)
Teams with the highest yards per point (YPP) averages this season.
YPP Team Record
22.3 Bears 1-5
20.9 Jets 1-5
20.1 Bengals 2-4
18.8 Giants 3-3
18.5 Browns 0-6
18.3 Titans 3-3
18.2 Texans 4-2
17.9 Buccaneers 2-3
17.8 Ravens 3-3