For a team that suited up just four wide receivers and had its top two running backs average 6.6 yards per carry, the Chicago Bears threw the ball a whole lot on Sunday.
Did you notice?
It’s easy for this sort of trend to get lost in the shuffle of a game that wasn’t decided until the Bears’ final play ended in a sack, but Mike Glennon was tasked with carrying a heavy offensive load in his regular season debut. Glennon threw 40 passes on the day, a number he hadn’t approached since slinging it 44 times in a 48-17 loss against the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 12, 2014. His teams are now 1-8 when he has been asked to throw 40 passes or more.
At least the Bears didn’t ignore Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, who were the team’s two best offensive players on Sunday and likely will be moving forward. Howard and Cohen combined to receive 29 touches out of the backfield. Tack on targets, and the duo were the either targeted with a pass or given the ball on a hand-off on 35 of the team’s 67 total snaps.
Yet, I can’t help but come back to Glennon being asked to drop back and pass as much as he did (70.1 percent). That means Howard’s 13 rush attempts represented just 19.4 percent of the Bears’ offensive snaps on Sunday, which seems to run counter to what the Bears’ game plan probably should be – or at least what we expected in 2017.
It’s just one game into the regular season, of course, but Sunday seemed to continue a Dowell Loggains’ offensive trend. Despite using three different starting quarterbacks and having a rookie running back who put together a 1,300-yard rushing season in 2016, the Bears threw the ball 559 times (57.8%) and ran it 380 times (39.3%). In the offseason, Loggains said Howard had yet to scratch the surface of his potential, which had us dreaming on an increased workload for a star back on the rise. And with Glennon’s arrival after a two-year stint as Jameis Winston’s backup, it only seemed fitting for the offense to ride Howard’s coattails and establish a balanced attack for a quarterback who hadn’t started since 2014.
Game managers usually aren’t asked to put it in the air 40 times and win a game, but that’s exactly what offensive coordinator Loggains asked out of Glennon on Sunday. Perhaps the numbers will balance out over the course of the season and all this passing sets up the running game en route to the kind of balanced attack that works in the NFL.
But there’s an obvious trend here that’s worth watching in what might be the most important season in Loggains’ play-calling career.