The Bears had their hands full against an impressive Saints team missing several playmakers on Sunday. The opportunity was there to win the game, but the Bears dropped an overtime heartbreaker, 26-23.
Saints All Pro receiver Michael Thomas missed his sixth-straight game and veteran Emmanuel Sanders was out with COVID. The Saints still managed to utilize their backup receivers and put together enough offense to secure the victory.
The Bears were not without their own personnel problems. Already missing James Daniels, the offensive line played without center Cody Whitehair. They also lost right tackle Bobby Massie to a knee injury, and then Massie’s replacement Jason Spriggs suffered an injury of his own.
Every team has injuries, which by itself is not the reason why the Bears lost. But an already depleted and ineffective offensive line didn’t help matters. Neither did Nick Foles’ slow delivery and even slower footwork.
Bears offense showed some improvement, but much of the same stagnation
I don’t often give much credence to “gut feelings,” but I tweeted prior to the game that I felt the Bears were in for some improvement on offense.
— BearsBeat.com (@bearsbeat) November 1, 2020
To some degree, we did see improvement. Following the Saints’ opening drive field goal, the Bears came out slinging the ball. Foles completed 5-of-7 passes and drove the offense 49 yards on 14 plays to set up a Cairo Santos field goal to tie the game.
On their next offensive possession, Foles connected with rookie receiver Darnell Mooney on a 50-yard bomb. The completion was particularly satisfying because the Bears had taken several shots downfield in previous weeks that just didn’t connect.
Two plays later, Foles hit Allen Robinson in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score. The Bears took an early 10-3 lead.
That was about as good as the offense looked for the remainder of the game. There were some field goals, sure. And Santos continued to be clutch throughout the game. But the Bears also had four punts, an interception, and a turnover on downs that really halted any offensive progression.
The Bears had one more strong drive late in the game. Down by 10 with just under 10 minutes to play, Foles engineered an 11-play drive for 75 yards. Foles hit Mooney for a 3-yard touchdown to pull the game to within 3.
Kudos to the Bears for tying the game on a Santos 51-yard field goal. But for as well as the defense played for most of the game, it was discouraging to see so many stalled Bears drives.
The defense did an admirable job stopping Brees and the Saints offense
Drew Brees is 41 years old and not nearly the quarterback he was in his prime, or even as recently as a few years ago. But he’s still a savvy veteran who knows where to place balls to move the chains.
Even without his top receivers, Brees utilized checkdowns to running back Alvin Kamara, who caught 9 balls for 96 yards. Kamara also rushed 12 times for 67 yards. The Saints took advantage of what the Bears defense gave them, picking up 394 yards and 23 first downs.
But for as well as the Saints moved the ball, the Bears defense clamped down when it needed to the most. Despite several long first-half drives, the Bears allowed just one touchdown and a field goal. In the second half and overtime, though, the defense allowed four scoring drives. Clearly, the defense was tired and Saints head coach Sean Payton, the clever play caller that he is, finally found ways to beat them.
The Bears offense is what it is
The Bears are halfway through their schedule and I find it hard to believe we’ll see anything better than what they’ve already shown us.
In fairness to them, six of their eight opponents currently have Top 15 defenses. In fact, the Bears have played all of the Top 3 — the Buccaneers, Rams and Colts. The Saints are currently ranked 8th.
Stats are one thing, but the eye test is another. Not only are the Bears failing in the stats category — 28th in scoring and 29th in yards — they are woefully unpleasing to the eye.
In football, everything starts up front. You can get by with an average quarterback if you have a terrific offensive line. Yes, that means you could “get by” with Foles if the Bears had a much better line. But they don’t, which means Foles is not going to get it done.
When the Bears got into a rhythm on their first offensive possession of the game, Foles was getting the ball out of his hands quickly. The offensive line held up and the receivers got open.
However, when the line didn’t block well or plays took too long to develop, Foles was a sitting duck in the pocket. He has cinder blocks attached to his feet and stands no chance to evade a pass rush, let alone scramble and pick up yards with his feet.
Does that mean I yearn for the Bears to return to Mitch Trubisky? Not necessarily. There are some plays that clearly favor Trubisky’s athleticism, and other plays that work best with Foles’ head knowledge and marginally better accuracy.
All I do know is that we are halfway through the season, and despite the Bears’ winning record and reasonable shot at making the playoffs, this offense is what it is. They’re a below-average unit that isn’t going to win games by itself, which you hope can at least avoid losing them for you.
Bears 0-2 through difficult part of the schedule
I’m going to keep beating the drum I’ve been pounding since three weeks ago. The Bears are two games into their “Murderers’ Row” part of the schedule. They lost to the Rams and Saints and have difficult games coming up against the Titans, Vikings and Packers.
Now, a week ago I would have confidently said the Bears would beat the Vikings. But after the Vikings took down the Packers this week, I don’t feel as confident about that matchup.
I think it’s feasible the Bears enter December either 6-5 or 5-6. That knocks them out of the playoff window, but they’ll still be alive in the hunt. With December games against the Lions, Texans, Vikings and Jaguars, the Bears could be 9-6 or 8-8 heading into a critical Week 17 game against the Packers.
For now, though, the Bears can’t look past the Titans. The Titans are a strong team with a tough defense and a balanced offense. For as poor as the Bears’ run defense has been, the prospect of facing Derrick Henry will keep Chuck Pagano up at night.
This is not a game I expected the Bears to win when the schedule was released in the spring, though. Because of that, if they can pull off a victory, they’ll be playing with house money moving forward.