Of course offense in the NFL comes down to two major categories: how many yards gained and how many points scored. Generally the higher those two stats go, the more a team wins. Then again tell that to the New Orleans Saints. They ranked first or second in both and still managed produce just a 7-9 record. So there must be more to it. The Chicago Bears offense can be used as a good example here.
One stat that is undersold these days in terms of importance? Time of possession. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the description is fairly straightforward. It represents the amount of time the offense controls the football during a game. It’s importance is determined by how high or low that time is. Sporting Charts described it as such.
“There is a correlation between teams with a greater time of possession and winning the game, mainly because it’s better to have your offense on the field more than your defense. The other reason winning teams typically end with a higher time of possession is because they run the clock out towards the later stages of a football game.”
It might sound a bit complex but it’s not. Last season showed just how valuable controlling the football could be to a team and a season.
Chicago Bears offense was second-worst in NFL at T.O.P
Of course there will be doubters of this, but the rankings from last year tell a pretty convincing story. Looking at the top 15 teams in T.O.P rankings, a total of seven wound up in the playoffs. Three others ended up with a record of .500 or better.
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Dallas Cowboys
- Oakland Raiders
- Houston Texans
- Green Bay Packers
- New England Patriots
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- New Orleans Saints
- Arizona Cardinals
- Carolina Panthers
- Indianapolis Colts
- Baltimore Ravens
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- New York Jets
- Kansas City Chiefs
Also included in that list are three of the teams that played in the conference championship game. The only one that wasn’t were the Atlanta Falcons. That was due to them being the highest-scoring offense in the league with 93 big plays. They were too busy scoring to worry about clock management. Not every team has that luxury, including the Bears.
Where did they rank? A dismal 31st out of 32 teams. Chicago controlled the football for just 46.77% of their games. That averages out to approximately 28 minutes per game. The correlation shows in their record too. In their three victories of 2016 they possessed the ball for an average of 32 minutes and 24 seconds. That stat drops considerably in their 13 defeats. So how were they able to control it whenever they did?
Running the ball and no turnovers helped
Two other big things stuck out in those three victories. The first is that Chicago ran the ball well. They posted games of 114, 158, and 142 yards on the ground respectively. The other was limiting giveaways. Collectively the Bears had just one turnover across those three contests. It shouldn’t be a shock. Running the ball slows the game down. Not turning it over prevents the opposing offense from getting extra opportunities.
Chicago ranked 17th in rushing and 3rd in giveaways last season. That is a recipe for poor time of possession and limited wins. If this team wants to flip the script in 2017, they’re going to have to make corrections on all of those fronts. Otherwise it will just be more of the same from last year.