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Measuring with Matt Eberflus' Own Standards

The Bears follow their coach's HITS principle and here are some tangible ways to determine how close they are to where he wants.

Bears coach Matt Eberflus was asked at Halas Hall after his mini-bye evaluation whether the team is where he expected.

He was being a bit evasive about how the team came through his mini-bye assessment and it seemed like a good way to find out some specifics. The answer sounded no more specific but there are a few concrete ways to look at it.

"Yeah that's a good question," Eberflus said. "I think it's harder to answer. I would just say we are where we are. The old saying, 'you are what your record is,' all that jazz.

"I would say that we are strong where we are strong right now and we need to improve where we need to improve, that it's just right in front of us."

Cryptical anwer aside the real measure of the Bears as constituted under Eberflus is how well they adhere to his own principle.

Eberflus' HITS principle is the gauge to measure their progress. 

The first two letters stand for hustle and intensity, but those are impossible for anyone outside of Halas Hall to accurately measure.

Eberflus and staff don't reveal all their "loafs," handed out but there are have been glimpses of players hustling and also not hustling or being intense. Their highly rated special teams for five games had been a good indication of hustle, despite the two muffed punts by Velus Jones Jr.  Eddie Jackson's play at safety included many obvious instances of how hustle and intensity are helping.

Two plays in particular show up potentially as non-hustle or non-intense. The failure to come up with the football in successive weeks on both sides of the ball when quarterbacks lost control of it while passing loomed as potential instances where they could have hustled better after the ball. But those seem isolated occurrences and on one of those the ball bounced directly to Minnesota's Irv Smith Jr., so it wouldn't have mattered how much anyone hustled.

So while those are vague measurements.

At least in terms of true analytics for the HITS principle, the Bears do appear on the right track but definitely are not where Eberflus wants them.

The T and S stand for takeaways or taking care of the ball, and smart football (lack of penalties).

Heading into this week, the Bears were 25th in total penalties committed with 31. They were tied for 20th in penalty yards walked off with 253. The farther down the ladder they can fall in both, the better. Both are better than they finished last year.

Averages in football carry less meaning than actual game-to-game totals. In that regard, the Bears have been sufficient.

They committed fewer penalties than opponents in four of their six games. In terms of yardage, they've had more yards walked off than opponents in four of the six games but it was very close, and often higher yardage totals result from one defensive pass interference penalty.

One area the Colts defense succeeded at greatly under Eberflus was takeaways, as they finished top 10 all four years. The Bears are close now to that after being miserable at it in the last three seasons of the Matt Nagy regime.

The Bears have eight takeaways, which ties for the 12th most. They're within a few takeaways of top 10.

The one area they are not close should probably surprise no one and that's turning over the ball. Their 10 turnovers were the sixth most through Week 6.

Justin Fields' five interceptions accounted for half the total and his 4.3% rate of interceptions is both worse than his rookie year and the worst in the league among starters who have played half their team's games.

However, there's another aspect to turnovers and that's fumbles. Fields hasn't necessarily made great strides at protecting the football with seven of them so far, after fumbling 12 times last year in 12 appearances and 10 starts. 

However, the Bears and Fields have been more alert in getting them back. He has only one lost fumble despite being sacked more than any quarterback through six weeks. He lost five of his 12 fumbles last year.

The other Bears haven't protected it so well and they had four other lost fumbles through six games, including two critical muffs.

So using Eberflus' own principle as a gauge, his mini-bye assessment probably looked a lot like the Bears' record. They were doing what he wanted to some extent but not enough. With the positives they accomplished, they should expect better but simply don't have the wins to show for it.

It's probably not who Eberflus thought the Bears should be but it's who they are now and their record reflects this.  

"So, you know, we got to learn how to finish better like I said after the (last) game," Eberflus said. "We got to learn how to play situational football, third down, red zone better on both sides of the ball and we're going to work had to do that."

They have 11 games to make their numbers more accurately reflect the way they're following the Eberflus HITS principle.

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