The Chicago Bears' defense has been excellent in 2012, but they rank just No. 14 overall in passing defense -- at least according to NFL rankings based on yards allowed per game. That measure doesn't come close to explaining how good the Bears have been in defending passing attacks. The Bears entered the bye week with the most interceptions and the most sacks of any team in the NFL, but their passing yardage appears higher because opponents have fallen behind and have gone pass heavy in the fourth quarter.
This phenomenon is nothing new to the Tampa-2 defense, which prioritizes point prevention and turnover creation over any yardage-based goals, and the crew over at Windy City Gridiron has taken the time to explore the concept of Garbage Time stats:
"What we call the 'prevent' defense that gives up a lot of yards, and a lot of points, is actually a calculated risk that allows 'buffer' points to be used. Other teams, while in garbage time, get considerably more aggressive, and feel that giving up big plays is an OK risk in return for turnovers and sacks."
There is a formula with several examples that supplement the discussion, but the general point is that with a big lead the Bears are willing to cede big chunks of yards while they make efforts to end the game with big plays like sacks and turnovers. The underneath throws and check downs are always available to offenses racing against time, and the Bears use those opportunities to strip the football -- or they wait for quarterbacks to get impatient and try dangerous throws down field.
The system is working to perfection in 2012, so when you see someone mention that the Lions have the No. 2 passing offense and the Bears are just No. 14 against the pass, remember the context to those stats.