The Bears' 5.1-yard average gain per play was ranked 28th in the NFL going into the Tennessee game. They finished a little above their average at 5.5 per play, but going into the game, the Bears were ranked dead last in first down productivity. Its called staying on schedule and its where the Bears' desperately need improvement before they face two much better defenses in Houston and San Francisco.
Lets see how they fared on first down against Tennessee:
The Bears ran 32 total plays on first down for a total of 165 total yards, which averages out to their season average of 5.16 yards per play.
Of the 32 plays the Bears lost yardage on four, two of which were costly penalties, such as tight end Kellen Davis holding call to start the game on first down, which put the Bears in an early hole on four drives.
Another was a Jay Cutler fumble. This play is worth a mention when looking at how the Bears thrive off defensive turnovers for scores. This fumble could have easily gone for six if Tennessee defensive end Kameron Wimbley doesnt bobble a pitch from teammate Zach Brown.
Three plays went for only a one-yard gain and one play for only two yards, and then on nine other first down plays, the Bears had no gain. To defend the offense, one of these no gainers was a Jason Campbell kneel down to end the game.
So for the sake of reasoning, take out the kneel down by Campbell. The Bears still failed on 17 of 31 first down plays, even without the kneel down. Failing on over 50 percent of your first down plays is not going to cut the mustard against top five defenses like No. 3 Houston or No. 2 San Francisco. When they put you in a hole, they make you pay and that's why the Bears must strive to be more productive. It will minimize feared pass rushers on second and third down if the Bears give themselves more manageable situations by being more productive on first down.