Sunday at 3:40 CT, the Bears will play a playoff game in New Orleans. This is the third in a three-part preview of that contest.
Notes on the First Meeting
Two things were frustrating about the first meeting between the Bears and the Saints.
(1) The Bears had no answers for Jared Cook. The world knows Drew Brees is not going to try and take the top off the defense. He doesn’t have the arm strength for that anymore. So opponents can’t let the slant route go for big YAC. They must have an answer for Kamara out of the backfield. And they can’t let Cook beat them on third downs. That’s exactly what the Bears did.
(2) Every Taysom Hill run seemed to work. When Sean Payton gets into short yardage or goal line situations, he no longer hesitates to take Brees off the field and put Hill on. A lot of Hill’s success is a product of a tough, physical offensive line but it’s also simply a schematic advantage to run the football at 11-on-11. If Hill is converting every time he comes on the field, the Bears are in for a long day.
Both of these issues will be difficult to correct if Roquan Smith is unavailable, as expected.
Stop the Rush, Stop the Saints?
The Saints have won their last two games, against Carolina and Minnesota, rushing for 156 and 264 yards respectively.
The Saints lost their two games before that, against Kansas City and Philadelphia, rushing for 60 and 96 yards respectively.
Keeping the New Orleans rushing attack contained doesn’t guarantee you victory but it does guarantee you’ll keep their point total manageable.
Three Things the Bears Defense Must Do
- Catch the Ball. One looks at the score of last Sunday’s Bears/Packers game and thinks, “Well the Bears got blown out.” Except that’s simply not what took place. This was a one-score game late in the second half and the Bears dropped THREE EASY interceptions. The spectacular plays that go unmade by defenders can be excused. But when the quarterback tries to play backyard pitch-and-catch with you, you have to oblige him. When Brees gives the Bears an opportunity for a game-changing play, they have to seize it.
- Tighten Coverages. One of the more frustrating things about the Chuck Pagano approach is its passivity. Every time the opponent needs to convert third-and-five, the defensive backs seem to provide six yards of cushion. That can be understandable against a Rodgers or Stafford or even Cousins. They are always a threat to go deep. But Brees is not. And if the Bears don’t want to see the Saints methodically move the ball up and down the field, they have to contest the short passes. (And if you get beat deep, so what? The Bears should play this game like they have nothing to lose because they have nothing to lose.)
- Hit Brees. The sacks won’t be there; they never are versus this quarterback. But Brees is still dealing with a shattered rib cage and that vulnerability needs to be exploited. The Bears need to make him uncomfortable in the pocket. They need to make him think twice when he steps up in the pocket to find Michael Thomas over the middle. Brees may not have the arm strength to throw deep, but if he’s given an hour in the pocket, he won’t need it.
The Verti Marte Haiku Series
In sweet New Orleans,
At Royal and Nicholls Streets,
Sits the Verti Marte
Stand at the counter.
Order the oyster po’ boy.
(It takes ’bout an hour.)
But in your whole life,
You’ve never had such flavors
Coursing through your mouth
Pair with a cold beer.
Abita Amber is nice.
(Dixies are cheaper.)
In sweet New Orleans
If I only get one meal,
This is the sandwich.
The point spread on this game is now ten, partly because the injury reports for these two sides are going in opposite directions. Roquan and Mooney iffy. Thomas and Kamara returning. Also because the Saints have managed to get bodies in the building. This will be the first true road game the Bears play this year.
So how does Chicago win?
They’ll need to contain the Saints rush attack and force them to kick field goals. If the Saints get north of 30 points, it’s ballgame.
And Dennis Allen isn’t going to let David Montgomery beat him. He’ll gang up on the run and leave the Bears outside options on islands with his corners. He’ll dare Trubisky to play well against a good defense; something he simply has not done.
There is no reason to pick the Bears to win this game.
Chicago Bears 29, New Orleans Saints 27