Bear PAWS: Zero is the key against Broncos in Week 2

Glynn Morgan
NBC Sports Chicago

Going from football "hero" to a quarterbacking "zero" is a fate most NFL quarterbacks potentially face weekly. Currently, Mitchell Trubisky is under media and fan scrutiny due to a lackluster performance against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1. Chicago-Green Bay is the NFL's most historically celebrated rivalry, and their matchup was chosen as the spotlight game to open the league's 100th season. The Bears scored zero touchdowns at home on national television. Ouch!

The Denver Broncos have a new head coach and it is the Bears' former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Even first-year head coaches are not immune to criticism when losing to a bitter foe as Denver did to the Raiders on Monday Night Football. So, with the Bears and Broncos charting zero wins, just how significant does the number zero become in changing their fortunes? Let's use P.A.W.S. (Predictive Analysis With Statistics) to dig out an answer.

A total of 16 first-time NFL head coaches were hired between 2017 and 2019, selected from a professional pool of offensive and defensive coordinators. The league trends toward picking offensive coordinators to helm franchises, believing innovative scoring methods are key to winning in today's game. Yet former defensive coordinators like Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, and others have won 10 of the last 15 Super Bowls, suggesting that defensive-minded coaches know how to derail high-powered offenses.

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Typically, a first-time head coach does not hire a coordinator opposite his expertise with zero NFL experience in that position. Last year, new head coach Matt Nagy kept the veteran Fangio as his defensive coordinator, and this season Matt LaFleur of the Packers retained defensive coordinator Mike Pettine on his staff. This year there are three teams (Bengals, Dolphins, and Broncos) taking a less conventional path toward their recent hires. Each team lost last week.

Vic Fangio has zero NFL experience as a head coach and his choice for an offensive coordinator, Rich Scangarello, also has no pro experience in his new role. Scangarello spent some time in the NFL as a quarterbacks coach for the San Francisco 49ers, learning offensive schemes under head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Last year, Scangarello was the offensive coordinator for college football's Wagner Seahawks, an FCS school with a 3,300-seat stadium, and they averaged 26 points per game. Fangio, on the other hand, is a widely-respected defensive guru that has orchestrated some of the best NFL defenses of this decade. Against the Raiders last Monday, the vaunted pass-rushing duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb recorded zero sacks and Scangarello's offense had zero rushing touchdowns.

For the past few years, both the Bears and Broncos have been known more for outstanding defenses than their inconsistent offensive production.

During the 2018 season, the Broncos recorded a sack in every game, totaling 44 quarterback takedowns on the year. However, when Von Miller (their best pass rusher) didn't get a sack, Denver had an 0-5 record.

Conversely, in games last year where Khalil Mack went without a sack, Chicago finished with a 5-2 record.

Both Miller and Mack shared a strange quirk, in that neither had a sack in Weeks 16 or 17 of the 2018 NFL season. Miller's Broncos finished with two losses, while Mack's Bears went 2-0 in those weeks and made the playoffs. This season, they once again share a stat line of zero sacks. The only difference this time is that both teams have zero wins.

Zero has been a more intimidating number for Bears opponents than for Chicago itself since last season.

The Bears held teams to zero rushing touchdowns 12 times, going 8-4 in the process. More impressively, the Bears were 5-0 when they allowed zero passing touchdowns. Chicago forced more turnovers than any other team last season, but when they committed none themselves, they had a 4-0 record. The Bears defense is key to their continued winning, but Trubisky must be the focal point if they are to ascend to Super Bowl contender status.

As a starting quarterback, even going back to college, Trubisky has lost his first start of each season, going 0-4. To his credit, Trubisky has won the very next start each time so far. Nine times in his professional career, Trubisky has thrown zero touchdown passes, winning 44% of those games. When he's thrown at least one or more, he has won 61% of those contests.

Trubisky must repeat his trend of winning after losing an initial start because going 0-2 in the NFL is hazardous to one's playoff hopes. Since 1990, when the league expanded to a 12-team playoff format, only 13% of teams make it to the second season when they lose their first two games. Only 16 teams since 2002, when the league went to eight divisions, have gone to the playoffs after losing their first two games, an 11% rate. Come Sunday, one of these two teams will be staring at zero wins and two losses, consequently looking at an uphill battle to make the playoffs.

The Bears will win.....

- if they keep Von Miller sack-less.  Denver is 0 - 6 since 2018 win he's without a sack

- should their pass defense prevent a passing TD ( 5 - 0 in 2018 )

- if Trubisky continues his trend of improving after season-opening losses

Bear PAWS: Zero is the key against Broncos in Week 2 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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