Eyeing Up the Enemy: Chicago Bears

Bob Rose

The New Orleans Saints will travel to Lake Michigan's shores in Week 8 of the NFL season for a matchup with the Chicago Bears. In 2020, this will be the 32nd meeting between New Orleans and Chicago, including two postseason games. The Saints hold a 16-15 edge in the series but have lost both playoff matchups, both on the road. New Orleans has just a 9-10 record in Chicago but has won the last three of the last five contests against the Saints in Chi-town. Including a 36-25 Saints victory in Chicago last season despite the absence of an injured QB Drew Brees, RB Alvin Kamara, and TE Jared Cook.

The Bears came into 2019 with Super Bowl hopes after winning the NFC North with a 12-4 record in 2018, but stumbled to a .500 finish because of a struggling offense and crucial defensive shortcomings. Chicago hopes to rebound with some fresh faces on each side of the ball and a veteran addition at quarterback. Here's a look at the Bears' offseason moves and how well New Orleans matches up with their Week 8 opponent.

CHICAGO BEARS

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Oct 6, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Chicago Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) during an NFL International Series game against the Oakland Raiders at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Raiders defeated the Bears 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2019 Record: 8-8 (3rd; NFC North)

Head Coach: Matt Nagy (3rd season; 20-12 record)

2019 Offensive Statistics

  • 17.5 points/game (29th in the NFL)
  • Total Yards = 29th
  • Passing Yards = 25th
  • Rushing Yards = 27th

2019 Defensive Statistics

  • 18.6 points/game (4th)
  • Total Yards = 8th
  • Passing Yards = 9th
  • Rushing Yards = 9th

Offseason Losses: Chase Daniel (QB), Taylor Gabriel (WR), Trey Burton (TE), Kyle Long (G), T.J. Clemmings (T), Ted Larsen (G), Leonard Floyd (DE), Aaron Lynch (LB), Nick Kwiatkoski (LB), Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB), Prince Amukamara (CB), HaHa Clinton-Dix (S)

Offseason Additions: Nick Foles (QB), Ted Ginn (WR), Jimmy Graham (TE), Germain Ifedi (T), Robert Quinn (DE), Barkevious Mingo (LB), Artie Burns (CB), Deon Bush (S), Tashaun Gipson (S), Cole Kmet (TE-Rookie), Jaylon Johnson (CB-Rookie), Kindle Vildor (CB-Rookie)

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Oct 29, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) is sacked by New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro (32) and defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) during the first half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago's offensive bumbling cost them dearly in 2019. The Bears scored less than 20 points nine times and scored over 30 points just twice. They were near the bottom of the league in third-down conversion percentage and only four teams had less than their 297 first downs for the year. Their 2017 first-round selection, QB Mitchell Trubisky, has not progressed for the Bears and is now at a career crossroads. The Bears traded a 4th round draft choice to the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire former Eagles postseason hero and Super Bowl LII MVP QB Nick Foles hoping to upgrade their quarterback play.

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Oct 20, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson (12) makes a touchdown catch against the New Orleans Saints during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Foles has had an up and down career but will have a physical 1,000-Yd receiver to target in Allen Robinson and a promising target in 3rd year WR Anthony Miller. Chicago also added TE Cole Kmet in the second round of the draft along with two former New Orleans veterans in deep threat WR Ted Ginn Jr. at wide receiver and Jimmy Graham at tight end. Chicago also has a dynamic and versatile RB Tarik Cohen and a potential 1,000-Yd rusher in David Montgomery. The Bears have had a tough time protecting their passer and opening up holes for their backs upfront, allowing 45 sacks and a rushing average near the bottom of the league with 3.7 yards per attempt. Former Pro Bowl lineman Kyle Long retired after the season, but Chicago signed Germain Ifedi in free agency to upgrade the tackle position.

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Oct 20, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray (28) rushes for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

After leading the NFL in forced turnovers (36), scoring defense, and rushing defense in 2018, Chicago's formidable defense slipped a bit in 2019. The Bears defense forced half as many turnovers as the prior-year and decreased their sacks from 50 to 32. However, they were still a Top-10 unit in every major category, but could not single-handedly win games like in 2018. 

They lost five defensive starters in free agency over the offseason, leading to further questions about the unit. The Bears still have two elite playmakers in the secondary with safety Eddie Jackson and cornerback Kyle Fuller, feared pass rushers in Khalil Mack and former Saint Akiem Hicks, a powerful defensive tackle in Eddie Goldman, and two active linebackers with Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith. They added talented edge rushers Robert Quinn and Barkevious Mingo in free agency along with safeties Tashaun Gipson and Deon Bush to offset their free-agent losses, while 2nd round pick Jaylon Johnson could be an immediate contributor at cornerback.

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Oct 20, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) makes a catch against Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (23) during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans QB Drew Brees is 4-2 against the Bears during the regular season but lost the 2007 NFC Championship game on the road against Chicago. Saints Head Coach Sean Payton, who played three games as a strike replacement quarterback for the Bears during the 1987 season, has overseen one of the NFL's most proficient offenses during his 14-Yr tenure with the Saints. New Orleans was able to run the ball successfully against the Bears last season even without Kamara, with RB Latavius Murray rushing for 119 yards and two TDs. The Saints' outstanding offensive line was also able to stymie Chicago's fearsome pass rush, an achievement that must be repeated to have balanced success in this matchup. Saints WR Michael Thomas had 9 receptions for 131 yards against the Bears secondary and now will have even more weapons around him with fellow WR Emmanuel Sanders and the return to health of RB Alvin Kamara and TE Jared Cook.

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Oct 20, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans defense turned last years matchup with Chicago into a rout, holding the Bears without an offensive touchdown until late in the 4th quarter when the game was long decided. They must now be up to the challenge of additional Chicago weapons and a more accurate quarterback in Foles. New Orleans has the personnel upfront gain advantage over the Bears in the trenches. The Saints will face more dangerous offenses on paper than Chicago's during the 2020 season. With the New Orleans offense facing one of the league's better defenses, it could be up to the Saints defense to win this crucial conference battle on the road.

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