Gene Chamberlain from the BearDigest on Sports Illustrated shares Chicago Bears intel with Kyle T. Mosley of Saints News Network.
Chamberlain's Bears Intel
Keys to a Bears Win on Offense
1. Attack the shorter areas with the passing game and be prepared to run the screen game
The Bears have been effective when they focus on running screen passes to David Montgomery and Cordarrelle Patterson but don't do it enough. With absolutely no running game to speak of in the past four weeks and especially going against one of the league's better run defenses, they need to come up with other alternatives to the conventional game plan.
The best way is to get the Saints running around chasing the screens and even sliding the pocket some to keep Nick Foles out of harm's way. It's an approach they've used often with the Minnesota Vikings in the past. Without James Daniels and most likely without center Cody Whitehair, the Bears will be trying to protect Foles with a makeshift line.
It's already one of the league's worst lines when healthy, and two starters will be out. It's going to be difficult to maintain a pocket, anyway. Throwing off three-step or five-step drops, throwing the quick wide receiver screens and even conventional screens to backs will help alleviate some of the pressure.
2. Find Cole Kmet
After he wasn't a factor early, the rookie tight end from Notre Dame caught two passes in each of the last two games, including a touchdown and a 38-yard pass in tight coverage. He's shown he's ready for more, and the Bears say they want to get him more playing time. They have to do this considering the lack of a running attack.
3. Use the run judiciously
They can't run. They're 2 yards from being the league's worst running team. But they can't give up on it either. If so, Foles becomes a sitting duck. So what they need to do is use it in particular situations like in no-huddle when it's not expected or on draw plays or even use a few on third-and-long or third-and-medium plays when they aren't normally used to catch the Saints by surprise.
4. Run some gadget plays.
Give them something to think about. The Bears in 2018 specialized at this and had everyone fearing it. They've become too bogged down in their offensive misery to try and throw teams off with trickery. What about the Philly Special with Foles receiving? Tarik Cohen was their big gadget player but he can't be the only one. Put Eddie Jackson out there on offense for a couple plays.
Keys to a Bears Win on Defense
1. Pass rush from Akiem Hicks and either Roy Robertson-Harris/Mario Edwards/Bilal Nichols.
The interior rush has to prevent Drew Brees from stepping up into the pocket. They had no rush last year against the Saints because Hicks was hurt. He's available now.
2. Challenge Brees to throw deep. It's probably overblown but there is a general perception around the league he can't throw deep anymore. Corners Kyle Fuller and Jaylon Johnson have been strong one-on-one defenders, although Johnson is still making some rookie mistakes. Buster Skrine always is matched up man to man anyway. They need to go with more man pressure here, choke off the tight ends and backs with man or combo/zone coverage, and invite the deeper throw, so their rush has a chance to reach Brees
3. Watch for cutback runs. The Bears have had problems defending the run because nose tackle Eddie Goldman opted out and wasn't really replaced by a real nose tackle. So they've gone from the best run defense in 2018 to top 9 or 10 last year even when Akiem Hicks was hurt. They are 15th and give up too many long runs when the back cuts back away from the blocking scheme. The nose tackle isn't protecting Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith as they were before, and they're missing tackles or are not even able to make an attempt.
X-Factors (Players, Coaches, Storylines) for the Bears
1. Hicks really wants to get a piece of Brees on some sacks.
He won't explain this, but in the past has said things like this too.
2. Dwayne Harris could be a factor in the punt return game.
They just picked him up because former Saints old man Ted Ginn Jr. has been trying to do it but has failed. He doesn't even field some punts and lets them hit. So they're losing yardage that way. Harris was put on the practice squad immediately this week when he signed but is just a return man and doesn't need to know the offense.
It would be a surprise if he isn't out there right away and gives them their first real return threat on punts since Tarik Cohen's torn ACL in Week 3 on a fair catch.
3. Undrafted free agent Sam Mustipher will likely be making his first NFL start at the center because of Cody Whitehair's calf injury.
He's playing next to undrafted free agent backup left guard Cordrarrelle Patterson, who was a defensive lineman they converted and was so bad last year he was replaced by Germain Ifedi, who isn't exactly Gene Upshaw or John Hannah at right guard.
4. Darnell Mooney from Tulane has had at least 5 deep pass plays where he got open.
The pass was either wide off the mark, or Foles or Mitchell Trubisky overthrew him. He's played well but I'd expect them to try to find Mooney on some deep routes with double moves.
Mosley's Saints Intel
Keys to a Saints Win on Offense
Setting the Tempo via the Run and Being Patient - Sean Payton tended to abandon the run game and rely on the passing game - even after the run had been successful early in games. The game-time temperature will be under 40 degrees for the Saints and Bears. Hence, a run-heavy offense will be the key for New Orleans to prevail.
The Saints are averaging 118.8 yds/game (#14) and 1.5 touchdowns/game (#3). The running back duo of Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray provide balance to the Saints offense.
Kamara's dynamic talent is a threat to any NFL defense. This season, he is toting the football at a rate of 4.9 yards/attempt. When Murray has his number called by Brees in the huddle, he delivers with 4.2 yards/carry.
The Trust of Brees
The Saints will not have three of their top four receivers in Sunday's contest. Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Marquez Callaway are sidelined with injuries. Brees still has WR Tre'Quan Smith to rely on, but there's a steep drop-off on the roster behind him. I expect GM Mickey Loomis will call-up receivers Austin Carr and Juwan Johnson from their practice squad as he did last week versus Carolina.
The versatility of RB Ty Montgomery may make an appearance at the receiver position for New Orleans. In either scenario, Brees still has receiver options in RB Alvin Kamara, TE Jared Cook, TE Josh Hill, TE Adam Trautman, and QB Taysom Hill.
Keys to a Saints Win on Defense
The Saints rushing defense is on a 49-game streak preventing a 100+ yard rusher in a game. Also, they rank 4th in the NFL against the run. The front-seven has done a tremendous job limiting the big plays in the rushing game.
The Bears running back Montgomery will find it difficult to pick-up big yards on this unit.
The pass rush must capitalize on attacking Foles often and early. Defensive end Cam Jordan headlines an improving Saints pass rush. Former first-round pick and defensive end Marcus Davenport is healthy, and sacks leader Trey Hendrickson complements Jordan on the Saints defensive right-edge.
New Orleans' interior is underrated. Defensive tackles David Onyemata, Sheldon Rankins, Malcom Brown, Shy Tuttle, and rookie Malcolm Roach can collapse a pocket and create havoc for Foles.
The Bears will be without the injured veteran center, Cody Whitehair. First-year center Sam Mustipher will have his hands full battling Onyemata and Rankins.
Expect defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to test the Bears interior line protection for Foles early and often in the game. These are times where he pencils-in blitzes for All-Pro linebacker Demario Davis and stunts for defensive ends Jordan and Davenport.
The entire Saints secondary is a definitive X-Factor for New Orleans. They have performed below expectations as a unit in 2020. The safeties, Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams, have been liabilities against the pass. The players are allowing opposing quarterbacks to connect often with receivers and tight ends. Malcolm Jenkins has yielded 3 touchdowns and a 134.2 quarterback rating to the opposition.
Williams is not much better. He gives up a 120.5 quarterback rating and allows 208 yards and a YAC of 104 yards to receivers. They must stop the bleeding before Bears' receivers Robinson, who cleared concussion protocol, Miller, Ginn, and tight ends Graham and Kmet, take advantage of the Saints' beleaguered secondary.
Alarming stats are coming from the play of star cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore is usually covering the opposition's top receiver. In 2020, he has allowed receivers to catch at a 78.3% rate and a 155.9 quarterback rating to those targets. Lattimore will have to contend with Robinson as he returns from a concussion suffered in the Rams game in Week 7.
The special teams unit must remain special. Placekicker Will Lutz is perfect for the season. Punter Thomas Morstead did not have an opportunity to punt in their 27-24 win over the Panthers in Week 7. All-Pro kick returner Deonte Harris has substantial return numbers in the kickoff and punt phases on special teams but has yet been able to break a significant return.
If Morstead can continue to pin opponents deep and Harris can "flip-the-field" for the Saints offense, they will be in an excellent position to make the Bears one-dimensional. Lutz needs to remain perfect and may be called upon to send the Saints home with another W, keeping pace with Tampa Bay.