During a spot this week with our friends at the "D-List" on ESPN 540, I was asked to boil down what has happened to the Chicago Bears after their 7-1 start. I wish I could have simply held up the chart in this post, but apparently, you must articulate your points verbally in the radio medium. (You can listen to a podcast of our discussion here.)
In losing four of their past five games, the Bears' defense has fallen off dramatically from the pace it set in takeaways and sacks. As you can see in the chart, the Bears rank No. 21 in the NFL in a metric that combined those statistics since Week 9.
I would add two other pieces of context to that capsule. The Bears had seven defensive touchdowns through Week 9, putting them on pace to obliterate the NFL record of nine for an entire season. But they haven't added to that total since, and there is little doubt the Bears' offense was more productive when playing from ahead thanks to the leads their defense handed them.
In fact, of the seven touchdowns receiver Brandon Marshall scored through Week 9, five came with the Bears holding at least a 17-point lead. It's much more difficult to throw the ball and make big plays in a close game or when trailing, as we've seen in the game ssince then.
Obviously there are other issues floating as well. But to me that's the most efficient way to explain why a team that started 7-1 is now fighting for its playoff life in Week 15.