Chicago Sun-Times

Seeing yellow: Bears' penalties on offense the biggest problem

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Spent some time before kickoffs to the games on Sunday taking a look at the Bears' situation with those pesky yellow flags the officials seem to be throwing on a more frequent basis.

The Bears tied their season high with 10 penalties in Thursday's loss at San Francisco, and they have had nine or more penalties in four of the nine games. Entering Sunday's games, only one team had more penalties (61) and one team had more yards penalized (509) than the Bears, but obviously that changed with the action. We'll get a clear look at where they rank in the league after the fantastically unappealing Monday night tilt this evening between Baltimore and Cleveland. The Browns could use a break from prime time.

So here's what I found ... with 61 penalties for 509 yards, the Bears are pretty much on pace for what their average is under Lovie Smith. The team had a low in the Smith era of 78 penalties for only 610 yards last season. The average in five seasons under Smith is 106 penalties for 836 yards. At the current pace, the 2009 Bears will finish with 108 penalties for 905 yards.

Let's look at the annual numbers:

2004: 124-956*
2005: 105-850
2006: 112-923
2007: 111-839
2008: 78-610

* 124 penalties set a franchise high

I have a comprehensive breakdown of every type of penalty and who committed what infraction below. But first, it's time to acknowledge some terrific work done by Greg Bedard at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Yes, the Green Bay Packers have been having their own penalty problems and entered Sunday's game vs. Dallas with 62 penalties, one more than the Bears with one less game played. He cited some work by the fine folks at Football Outsiders that proved that there is very little to link a team's record and the accumulation of defensive and special-teams penalties.

"In their 2007 Pro Football Prospectus, Aaron Schatz and Bill Barnwell from studied penalties from 2002-'06. They found there was "almost zero" correlation between record and defensive or special-team penalties. There was, however, a much stronger correlation with offensive penalties."

Unfortunately, 30 of the Bears' 61 penalties count against the offense, a result of 15 false starts. Right tackle Chris Williams is credited with a team-high five penalties, four of them false starts although there was one false start assigned to the team and replays showed it was likely he was the guilty party. Quarterback Jay Cutler has committed four penalties himself. The Bears have been called for six personal fouls--five unnecessary roughness call and one unsportsmanlike conduct--and they have also been hit with three facemask infractions.

Certainly one of the things that jumped out also was that the Bears have nine offside penalties vs. the defense. That's the same type of a infraction as a false start for the offense and when a team has 24 of those combined, well, that's an issue. Smith has downplayed penalties to this point, and said they're uncharacteristic. If uncharacteristic means he understands they're on pace for pretty much what they average under him, he's correct.

Here is a breakdown of all the penalties:

Penalties the Bears have been called for

15--False start
12--Offensive holding
9--Defensive offside
5--Unnecessary roughness
3--Illegal block above the waist
2--Defensive pass interference
2--Offensive pass interference
2--Delay of game
1--Offensive offside
1--Unsportsmanlike conduct
1--Intentional grounding
1--Illegal crackback block
1--12 men on the field
1--Defensive holding
1--Running into the kicker
1--Ineligible man downfield

Yards lost by penalties

110--Offensive holding
75--False start
74--Unnecessary roughness
45--Defensive offside
37--Defensive pass interference
30--Illegal block above the waist
20--Offensive pass interference
15--Unsportsmanlike conduct
15--Illegal crackback block
10--Delay of game
10--Intentional grounding
5--Offensive offside
5--12 men on the field
5--Defensive holding
5--Running into the kicker
5--Ineligible man downfield

Penalties by players

Chris Williams, 5 penalties, 35 yards (4 false starts, 1 unnecessary roughness)

Alex Brown, 4 penalties, 38 yards (2 offside, 1 unnecessary roughness, 1 facemask)
Jay Cutler, 4 penalties, 45 yards (1 unsportsmanlike conduct, 1 illegal crackback, 1 intentional grounding, 1 delay of game)
Frank Omiyale, 4 penalties, 25 yards (3 false starts, 1 holding)

Tommie Harris, 3 penalties, 25 yards (1 unnecessary roughness, 2 offside)
Devin Hester, 3 penalties, 20 yards (1 holding, 2 false start)
Orlando Pace, 3 penalties, 25 yards (2 holding, 1 false start)

Anthony Adams, 2 penalties, 20 yards (1 facemask, 1 offside)
Al Afalava 2 penalties, 15 yards (1 holding, 1 offside)
Earl Bennett, 2 penalties, 15 yards (1 offside, 1 pass interference)
Zack Bowman, 2 penalties, 28 yards (1 pass interference, 1 illegal block above the waist)
Rashied Davis, 2 penalties, 18 yards (2 holding)
Roberto Garza, 2 penalties, 15 yards (1 false start, 1 holding)
Corey Graham, 2 penalties, 20 yards (1 illegal block above the waist, 1 holding)
Olin Kreutz, 2 penalties, 7 yards (1 false start, 1 holding)
Adewale Ogunleye, 2 penalties, 10 yards (2 offside)
Nick Roach, 2 penalties, 34 yards (1 facemask, 1 pass interference)
Charles Tillman, 2 penalties, 10 yards (1 holding, 1 offside)
Jamar Williams, 2 penalties, 15 yards (1 holding, 1 running into the kicker)
Team, 2 penalties, 10 yards (1 12 men on the field, 1 false start)

Mark Anderson, 1 penalty, 15 yards (1 unnecessary roughness)
Josh Beekman, 1 penalty 5 yards (1 false start)
Johnny Knox, 1 penalty, 5 yards (1 false start)
Brad Maynard, 1 penalty, 5 yards (1 delay of game)
Jason McKie, 1 penalty, 10 yards (1 holding)
Greg Olsen, 1 penalty, 10 yards (1 offensive pass interference)
Kevin Payne, 1 penalty, 15 yards (1 unnecessary roughness)
Adrian Peterson, 1 penalty, 10 yards (1 illegal block above the waist)
Garrett Wolfe, 1 penalty, 5 yards (1 ineligible man downfield)

Additionally, seven penalties vs. the Bears have been declined or superseded. That includes three more defensive offside calls, two vs. Alex Brown and one vs. Danieal Manning.

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No surer sign of a poorly coached team than lots of penalties. That and bad tackling. We're 2-for-2.

How bad is Craig? Any worse than Josh "close again" Bullocks who was inactive for a couple of games this season? Or Dahana Deleston who was cut after injuring on special teams? Or Glenn Earl who retired this summer after being hit by Ced "the Bu'zz'" Benson?
Let Craig start at SS!!!

Penalties?? Only One Symptom Of The True Disease.

This Product Is Broken Plain & Simple, And Will Not Be Repaired Until The Head Coach, And His Hand Chosen Lieutenants Are Replaced.

With His "Personal Touch" Now On The Defense? It Has Finally Reached The Lowly Depths That Turner's Offenses Have Always Held. Matter Of Fact, The Only Phase Of This Squad That Is Still Reliablity Functional.. Is "The Fourth Phase". (*That's You & Me, Kids!)

But What I'd Really Like To Understand Better, Is This..
If Captain Smith, (*Note The Titanic Comparision), Is The Truly Up-Standing Christian Man He Claims To Be? Why Is He Knowingly Holding The Team For Ransom With His Guaranteed Extension Moneys? If We Recall With Any Accuracy? (And We Do).. It Took Weeks (And The Holyest Of Holys, Tony Dingy) To Get Him Retained After The Great Super Bowl Implosion.. And Smitty At That Time, Swore He'd Lead Us All To The Greener Pastures, (Or At Least The "Red Zone"), And He Has Not Come Close To Fullfilling That Promise. So Instead Of The City, The Franchise, And The Greatest Fans In The League Being Stuck With.. "We Can't Fire Him, Because He'll Collect A Free 10 Mill".. Why Doesn't The Stoic, Fine Example, And Great Leader Of Men, Simply Do The Right Thing??.. By Signing And Tendering His Resignation!!

This Way He Proves He's Not As Football Ignorant As He Appears To Look (While Blankly Staring Up At The Jumbo-Tron), And We'll Have The Funds To Correct All Of His Screw-Ups With Some New And Reliable Leaders.

PS: Turner Goes With The Deal!!

Officials are not intimidated by Lovie - he is way too passive - did you see Cutler look to the sideline for help on the Kellen Davis non-intereference call during the SF game. It's human nature. I hate to say it but it's true...

i've been a bears fan since the 60's and i've seen so many teams that get flagged. it used to make me sick to see walter p make a huge run and get it called back for useless penalies.but lets face it a team is a reflection of it's coach head and offensive coach.the
bears are who we know they are.a poorly coached team.the evidence is all the players who leave here and do fine somewhere else. there's only one solution and that's this, stop going to the games, for as long as the fans keep going to the games the mc cheapies will
just collect your money and run to the bank. you want to see them clean house and now or at the end of the season then stop going to these poorly played games.the bears fans who are the best fans because they have put up with this for so many years.the mckaskeys understand one thing talking about lighting a fire under them.then stop going to the games. fans it's time to be heard.

GM can't draft or trade, HC can't coach or pick ass't that can coach, owners happy to have mediocre teams. How come there were so many games yesterday with few penalties and no interceptions? Oh yeah, Lovie was off. Can we get this man a gig where he is qualified, someplace on a Friday night.


While I tend to agree with you in regards to penalties -- this post uses facts to prove other wise. As for the bad tackling, the announcers on the NFL Network for Thursday's game indicated that both teams were doing a very good job of wrapping up the runner.

So if there is a 2-2 it is not the two examples cited.

Goodness is that Chris Williams at the top of the list? Me oh my, he sure is working out nice, another winner winner chicken dinner for Jerry Angelo.

Thats poor coaching right their.

Let bottom 3 in penalties.

The QB is regressing.

Not sure what guys should play what positions.

Have fired 18 coaches, cause it was their fault.

Have players like Harris being suspended twice and ejected once in two years.

Players are often unprepared to play

Their is lots of confusion on offense

The O-Line doesn't know how to pick up a blitz.

The D-Line can't maintain their gaps.

Sloppy play in general

Recievers often quit on their routs, and are constantly stopping on their routs and looking for flags.

Turner likes to call tunnel screens on 3rd and 8.

Lovie likes to Blits the same gap over and over even if its not working and they are getting blocked and the secondary is getting destroyed.

I got one question for you Brad. Are the players running the team or is the coach?

The coaches have lost control of this team. There has not been any discipline on this team since Lovie came to town. The players are in control and are allowed to make mistakes that kill the team.

Look at the offsides, false starts and unnecessary roughness yards lost. I know of at least three roughness penalties that killed the teams effort and contributed to losses. The false starts and off sides used to be strengths of the Bears in past regimes, no longer.

The holding has too occur because the D line is passing the o line faster than a speeding bullet headed right for the QB. The O line needs new and better players plain and simple.

Brad, I would bet the championship teams for the most part are the best or in the top 5 in minimizing penalties year in and year out.

Brad could you check that out?

MD Kevin,

I guess it depends which facts you're focusing on. I'm looking at being 2nd in the league for most penalties and most yards lost by penalties. The stats also don't highlight the types of penalties, like delay of game on a field goal attempt. As for tackling, I'm not just looking at the Niner's game. Anybody who can say the tackling has been anything but poor this season has downed a few too many.

I disagree.The bears biggest problem is the Coaching Staff Not off penalties,Coaches stop penalties with good coaching.Somthing the bears only have in two spots period.D- line coach Marrinelli and Special Teams coach.The whole rest of coaching staff stinks, especially O-Line Coach,Running backs coach and Quarterbacks coach...Brad Plz address real problems and thier sorces.The Coaching staff IS the whole problem.Coaches are supposed to coach mistakes and weve made mistakes all year.biggest mistake Not firing Ron Turner and whole offensive staff of coaches.Thats the problem Brad Plz get to real issues.Like when the staff will go? Or why Ja or the mckaskeys arent liteing a fire under JA and lovies butts!it always sound like u guys r trying to stick up for this horrible staff!They stink point blank>

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on November 16, 2009 5:00 AM.

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