NFL passing offenses have steadily improved for decades, making statistical comparisons between today’s quarterbacks and those of the past almost meaningless. In 2018, quarterbacks are playing at all-time high levels: The league average in passer rating, touchdown percentage and completion percentage are all the highest in NFL history.
But that changes when quarterbacks are playing against the Bears. Against Chicago, passing numbers have been set back 30 years.
The average passer rating of quarterbacks facing the Bears this year is 73.0. That’s by far the lowest in the league and well below the league average passer rating of 93.1, and to find a year when all quarterbacks played as badly as quarterbacks play this year against the Bears, you have to go back 30 years: 1988 was the last season when the league average passer rating was below the 73.0 rating the Bears are allowing this season.
The most impressive fact about the Bears’ defense is that they have 26 interceptions and have allowed 21 touchdown passes. The Bears are the only team in the league with more interceptions than touchdowns, a remarkable achievement when the league average touchdown-interception ratio is more than 2-to-1. The 31 other defenses in the NFL have given up an average of 23 touchdown passes while intercepting an average of 11 passes.
In the playoffs, the Bears will likely need to beat some combination of Drew Brees, Jared Goff, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins to get to the Super Bowl. That is not an easy schedule. But if any NFL defense can shut down quarterbacks like that, the Bears can.