The Chicago Bears faced their toughest and most complete opponent of the young season when they faced off against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Head Coach Marc Trestman actually spent time on the Saints staff in 2007 as a consultant to Head Coach Sean Payton during training camp after he had been fired as Offensive Coordinator for North Carolina State.
I started watching the game to see how the chess match would unfold between two of the brightest offensive minds in football. I came away impressed by two things.
1. Sean Payton is an excellent play caller. The screen pass right before halftime was a perfectly timed thing of beauty (That fact that I saw it developing the a split second after the snap and the defense didn’t is another matter). The man knows how to get the most out of his players.
2. The Bears maintained an even keel attitude and approach throughout the game; for better and worse; I attribute that to Trestman. Even though the defense kept giving up big chunks of yards they were able to make some key stops on 3rd downs. They also held the Saints to four field goals and held QB Drew Brees to his first game under 300 yards passing in the last 10 games. Bears QB Jay Cutler had a fantastic day throwing for 358 yards and 2TD, 0INT and 1FB and a passer rating of 128.1 That is a good day at the office. As good as Alshon Jeffery was last week (5-107 TD) he was even better today. Jeffery caught 10-218 and a TD. Jeffery’s 218 broke a Bears receiving record set back in 1954 by Harlon Hill (214) against the San Francisco 49ers.
The game never seemed to get away from them until it was too late. They didn’t seem to get down or discouraged but they didn’t seem to have much urgency either, which really hurt, especially in the 4th quarter.
Let’s start with the defense…
I just about punched the wall when veteran LB Lance Briggs jumped off sides in the 4th quarter and I’m pretty sure I threw my hands up in disgust at least once after giving up a big 3rd down conversion. On more than one occasion the safety help came in late and the middle seemed to wide open the entire game. The front four pressure was still lacking, although I did see some close, almost plays made a few times. However, as we all know; close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and nuclear weapons. Close isn’t going to cut it in the NFL. This was also only the 4th game in the last 40 where the Bears D did not create a turn over.
Now, on to Trestman’s side of the ball; the offense…
The first five offensive series were as follows: crap, a total disaster, crap, crap and crap.
Five drives that went 18 plays for 54 yards; 4 punts and a fumble.
The first play from scrimmage was a fumble and loss of 10 yards. I actually missed the fumble the first time I watched the game; I thought they had gotten a holding penalty and had been backed up that way. They gained 16 yards and punted.
The second drive was a sack, fumble and turnover (on a well timed blitz that no one on the offense even noticed until it was too late), deep in Bears territory (the Bears 6 yard line) with the Saints already up 3-0. And that was the one and only play of the drive! Like I said… disaster. Fortunately the Bears D held the Saints to just a field goal and minimized the damage.
The third drive also included a sack on a well timed blitz that no one on the offense picked up until Saints LB David Hawthorne was hitting jay Cutler for a 7 yard loss. To his credit, Trestman did bring in back up O lineman Eben Britton in to help with protection but it didn’t seem to work.
The 2nd quarter didn’t start off any better. A 3rd sack on yet another well timed blitz that no one picked up on until Cutler was picking himself up off the ground by Saints S Kenny Vaccaro meant a 3rd strait punt (if you don’t count the fumble as an actual drive).
Once the Saints drove down and scored a touchdown, the Bears offence seemed to wake up. They marched down the field on an 80 yard drive and scored a touchdown of their own. It looked like the Offence was going to come in and take control of the game.
Unfortunately, they left 2:41 on the clock and that was more than enough for Brees and company to drive down and score another touchdown on that perfectly timed screen pass I spoke of earlier. That annoyed me.