Air and Space: Screen efficiency

Screen passes seem to be an obsession among NFL fans. Over the years, I've heard more from you about them than any other aspect of the game. Teams either throw too many or not enough. They use them at the wrong time or have the wrong personnel.

So I found it particularly interesting this year when ESPN Stats & Information began tracking each quarterback's performance on screen passes. Through six weeks of the season, some interesting numbers and trends have emerged.

The Chicago Bears, assumed to be a downfield-oriented team, lead the NFL with 22 screen passes. As you can see in the chart accompanying this post, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has the league's highest rating on screen passes. At No. 2 is the Detroit Lions' Shaun Hill, whose team ranks fifth among NFL teams in total screen passes.

As you recall, Bears tailback Matt Forte scored on an 89-yard screen pass against the Lions in Week 1. Lions tailback Jahvid Best had a 75-yard touchdown on a similar play in Week 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

On the other end of the NFC North spectrum are Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings, who rank No. 27 and No. 33, respectively. Keep in mind that the Vikings have played one less game than the rest of the division teams because of their early bye, but Favre's eight screen attempts still reflect what many of you have observed anecdotally: After parting ways with backup tailback Chester Taylor in free agency, the Vikings aren't using many screen passes on a relative basis.